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THE SPLENDOUR AND Af/^i?^i^' '3 
OF A MASTER OF MAGIC^f^''^'*'^^'^ ,, ■ 


w. R. h/trowbridge' 


WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS ^^.^.^^ T'^'^^'"^'^;^^:. 




Richard Clay & Soks, Limited, 
bread street hill, b.c., and 
bungay, suffolk. 


Though much has been written about Cagliostro, 
most of it is confined to articles in encyclopedias and 
magazines, or to descriptive paragraphs in works 
dealing with magic, freemasonry and the period in 
which he lived.^ This material may be described as a 
footnote which has been raised to the dignity of a 
page of history. It is based on contemporary records 
inspired by envy, hatred and contempt in an age 
notoriously passionate, revengeful and unscrupulous. 
It is, moreover, extremely superficial, being merely a 
repetition of information obtained second-hand by 
compilers apparently too ignorant or too lazy to make 
their own investigations. Even M. Funck-Brentano, 
whose brilliant historical monographs have earned him 
a deservedly high reputation, is not to be relied upon. 
In the sequel ^ to his entertaining account of the affair 
of the Diamond Necklace, the brief chapter he devotes 
to Cagliostro contains so many inaccuracies as to 
suggest that, like the majority of his predecessors, he 
was content to impart his Information without pre- 
viously taking the trouble to examine the sources from 
which it was derived. 

It has been said that every book on Cagliostro 

^ Prior to the present volume no complete biography of Cagliostro 
has been published in English. 

2 La Mort de la Reine : Les suites de V affaire du collier. Translated 
into English under the title of Cagliostro and Company. 



must be a book against him. With this opinion I 
totally disagree. In choosing Cagliostro as the 
subject of an historical memoir I was guided at first, I 
admit, by the belief that he was the arch-impostor he 
is popularly supposed to be. With his mystery, 
magic, and highly sensational career he seemed just 
the sort of picturesque personality I was in search of. 
The moment, however, I began to make my researches 
1 was astonished to find how little foundation there 
was in point oi fact for the popular conception. The 
deeper I went into the subject — how deep this has 
been the reader may gather from the Bibliography, 
which contains but a portion of the material I have 
sifted — the more convinced I became of the fallacy 
of this conception. Under such circumstances there 
seemed but two alternatives open to me : either to 
abandon the subject altogether as unsuited for the 
purpose I had in view, or to follow the line of least 
resistance and, dishonestly adhering to the old method, 
which from custom had almost become de rigueur, help 
to perpetuate an impression I believed to be unfounded 
and unjust. 

On reflection I have adopted neither course. 
Irritation caused by the ignorance and carelessness 
of the so-called "authorities" awoke a fresh and 
unexpected interest in their victim ; and I decided to 
stick to the subject I had chosen and treat it for the 
first time honesdy. As Baron de Gleichen says in 
his Souvenirs, '* Enough ill has been said of Cagliostro. 
I intend to speak well of him, because I think this is 
always preferable providing one can, and at least I 
shall not bore the reader by repeating what he !has 
already heard." 



Such a statement made in connection with such a 
character as Cagliostro is popularly supposed to be 
will, no doubt, expose me to the charge of having 
*' whitewashed " him. This, however, I emphatically 
deny. "Whitewashing," as I understand this term, 
is a plausible attempt to portray base or detestable 
characters as worthy of esteem by palliating their vices 
and attributing noble motives to their crimes. This 
manner of treating historical figures is certainly not 
one of which I can be accused, as those who may have 
read previous biographical books of mine will admit. 
Whatever sympathy for Cagliostro my researches may 
have evoked it has always been exceeded by contempt 
of those who, combining an unreasoning prejudice with 
a slovenly system of compilation, have repeated the 
old charges against him with parrot-like stupidity. 
The object of this book is not so much an attempt 
to vindicate Cagliostro as to correct and revise, if 
possible, what I believe to be a false judgment of 

W. R. H. Trowbridge 

London^ August 1910. 



The books and documents relating to Cagliostro are 
very numerous. Their value, however, is so question- 
able that in making a critical choice it is extremely 
difficult to avoid including many that are worthless. 

In the French Archives : 

A dossier entitled Documents a Vaide desquels la police de Paris a 
cherche a etablir^ lors du proch du Collier^ que Cagliostro n'etait autre 
qu'un aventurier nomme Joseph Balsamo^ qui avail deja sejourne a 
Paris en i'J'/2 : 

Lettre adressee par un anonyme au commissaire Fontaine, remise 
de Palerme, le 2 Nov., 1786. 

Plainte adressee a M. de Sartine par J. Balsamo centre sa femme. 

Ordre de M. de Sartine au commissaire Fontaine de dresser 
procbs-verbal de la capture de la dame Balsamo, 23 Janvier, 1773. 

Proces-verbal de capture de la dame Balsamo, i Fevrier, 1773. 

Interrogatoire de la dame Balsamo, 20 Fevrier, 1773. 

Rapport au Ministre. 

The above have also been printed in full in Emile 
Campardon's Marie Antoinette et le Proces du Collier. 

The following documents are unprinted : 

Proces-verbal de capture des sieur et dame Cagliostro. 
Proces-verbal de perquisition fait par le commissaire Chesnon le 
23 Aout, 1785, chez le sieur Cagliostro. 

Interrogatoire de Cagliostro le 30 Janvier, 1786. 



In the French Archives (continued) : 

Minute des confrontations des t^moins de Cagliostro. 

Procbs-verbal de la remise faite a Cagliostro, lors de sa mise en 
liberty, des effets saisis a son domicile le jour de sa mise en etat 

Journal du libraire Hardy. 

Copie d'une lettre e'crite de Londres par un officier fran^ais remise 
d Paris le 19 Juillet 1786. 

Lettre au peuple franQais. 

Published Works : 

Vie de Joseph Balsamo, connu sous le nom de Comte Cagliostro ; 
extraite de la procedure instruite contre lui a Rome, en 1790, 
traduite d'apr^s Toriginal italien, imprime a la Chambre Apostolique. 

Courier de I'Europe, gazette anglo-frangaise, September, October, 
November, 1786; also Gazette de HoUande, Gazette d' Utrecht, 
Gazette de Leyde, Gazette de Florence, Courier du Bas-Rhin, 
Journal de Berlin, Public Advertizer, Feuille Villageoise, and 
Moniteur Universel. 

Cagliostro d^masqu^ k Varsovie en 1780. 

Nachricht von des beriichtigten Cagliostro aufenthalte in Mitau, 
im jahre 1779 (Countess Elisa von der Recke). 

Lettres sur la Suisse en 1781 (J. B. de Laborde). 

Geschichten, geheime und rathselhafte Menschen (F. Bulau) ; or 
the French translation by William Duckett Fersonnages Anigmatiques. 

Souvenirs de Baron de Gleichen. 

Souvenirs de la Marquise de Cr^quy. 

Correspondance litt^raire (Grimm). 

M^moires rdcrdatifs, scientifiques, et anecdotiques du physicien — 
a^ronaute G. E. Roberson. 

M^moires authentiques de Comte Cagliostro (spurious, by the 
Marquis de Luchet). 

M^moires de Brissot, Abb^ Georgel, Baronne d'Oberkirch, Madame 
du Hausset, Grosley, Bachaumont, Mdtra, Casanova, Comte Beugnot, 
and Baron de Besenval. 

Reflexions de P. J. J. N. Motus 

Cagliostro : La Franc-Ma^onnerie et I'Occultisme au XVIII* 
si^cle (Henri d'Almdras). 



Othodoxie Ma^onnique (Ragon). 

La Franc-Magonne, ou Rev^ations des Mysteres des Francs- 

Annales de I'origine du Grand Orient en France. 

Acta Latomorum (Thory). 

Memoires pour servir a I'histoire du Jacobinisme (Abbe Barruel). 

Histoire du Merveilleux (Figuier). 

Histoire de la Franc-Magonnerie (Clavel). 

Histoire philosophique de la Magonnerie (Kauftmann et Cherpin). 

Les Sectes et les societes secretes (Comte Le Couteulx de 

Schlosser's History of the Eighteenth Century. 

Histoire de la Revolution Frangaise : Les Revolutionnaires 
Mystiques (Louis Blanc). 

Histoire de France : XVHI^ siecle (Henri Martin). 

Histoire de France : L' Affaire du Collier (Michelet). 

Recueil de toutes les pieces (31) qui ont paru dans Taffaire de 
M. le Cardinal de Rohan. 

Marie Antoinette et le Proces du Collier (Emile Campardon). 

L' Affaire du Collier (Funck-Brentano). 

The Diamond Necklace (Henry Vizetelly). 

Marie Antoinette et le Proces du Collier (Chaix d'Est-Ange). 

La Derniere Piece du fameux Collier. 

Memoire du Sieur Sacchi. 

Lettre de Labarthe a I'archdologue Seguier. 

Lettre d'un Garde du Roi (Manuel). 

Lettres du Comte de Mirabeau h . . . sur Cagliostro et Lavater. 

Requete au Parlement par le Comte de Cagliostro. 

Memoire pour le Comte de Cagliostro, demandeur, contre 
M. Chesnon le fils et le sieur de Launay. 

Lettre au Peuple Anglais par le Comte de Cagliostro. 

Theveneau de Morande (Paul Robiquet). 

Liber Memorialis de Caleostro dum esset Roboretti. 

Alessandro di Cagliostro. Impostor or Martyr ? (Charles Sotheran) . 

Count Cagliostro (Critical and Miscellaneous Essays ; Carlyle). 

Vieux papiers, vieilles maisons (G. Lenotre). 

Italianische Reise (Goethe). 



I The Power of Prejudice 
II Giuseppe Balsamo . 



I Cagliostro in London . 
II Eighteenth Century Occultism 

III Masked and Unmasked . 

IV The Conquest of the Cardinal 
V Cagliostro in Paris 

VI The Diamond Necklace Affair 
VII Cagliostro Returns to London 
VIII " Nature's Unfortunate Child " 









To face J>afe 

Count Cagliostro Frontispiece 

Cardinal de Rohan 8 

Countess Cagliostro 14 

Mesmer 76 

Emmanuel Swedenborg 90 

Adam Weishaupt 104 

Countess Elisa von der Recke 128 

Lavater . . . 170 

Saverne 182 

Houdon's Bust of Cagliostro 194 

Countess de Lamotte 214 

Marie Antoinette 224 

Lord George Gordon 258 

Theveneau de Morande 266 

I A Masonic Anecdote 277 

Philip James de Loutherbourg 280 

San Leo .......... 304 







The mention of Cagliostro always suggests the 
marvellous, the mysterious, the unknown. There is 
something cabalistic in the very sound of the name 
that, considering the occult phenomena performed by 
the strange personality who assumed it, is curiously 
appropriate. As an incognito it is, perhaps, the most 
suitable ever invented. The name fits the man like 
a glove ; and, recalling the mystery in which his 
career was wrapped, one involuntarily wonders if it has 
ever been cleared up. In a word, what was Cagliostro 
really ? Charlatan, adventurer, swindler, whose im- 
postures were finally exposed by the ever-memorable 
Necklace Affair in which he was implicated ? Or 
" friend of humanity," as he claimed, whose benefac- 
tions excited the enmity of the envious, who took 
advantage of his misfortunes to calumniate and ruin 
him ? Knave, or martyr — which ? 

This question is more easily answered by saying 
what Cagliostro was not than what he was. It has 
been stated by competent judges — and all who have 



studied the subject will agree with them — that there is, 
perhaps, no other equally celebrated figure in modern 
history whose character is so baffling to the biographer. 
Documents and books relating to him abound, but they 
possess little or no value. The most interesting are 
frequently the most unreliable. The fact that material 
so questionable should provide as many reasons for 
rejecting its evidence — which is, by the way, almost 
entirely hostile — as for accepting it, has induced 
theosophists, spiritualists, occultists, and all who are 
sympathetically drawn to the mysterious to become 
his apologists. By these amiable visionaries Cagliostro 
is regarded as one of the princes of occultism whose 
mystical touch has revealed the arcana of the spiritual 
world to the initiated, and illumined the path along 
which the speculative scientist proceeds on entering 
the labyrinth of the supernatural. To them the strik- 
ing contrasts with which his agitated existence was 
chequered are unimpeachable witnesses in his favour, 
and they stubbornly refuse to accept the unsatisfactory 
and contemptuous explanation of his miracles given 
by those who regard him as an impostor. 

Unfortunately, greater weight is attached to police 
reports than to theosophlcal eulogies ; and something 
more substantial than the enthusiasm of the occultists 
is required to support their contention. However, those 
who take this extravagant (I had almost said ridiculous) 
view of Cagliostro may obtain what consolation they 
can from the fact — which cannot be stated too emphatic- 
ally—that though it is utterly impossible to grant 
their prophet the halo they would accord him, it is 
equally Impossible to accept the verdict of his enemies. 

In reality, it is by the evil that has been said and 

The Power of Prejudice 

written of him that he is best known. In his own day, 
with very few exceptions, those whom he charmed or 
duped — as you will — by acts that in any case should 
have inspired gratitude rather than contempt observed 
a profound silence. When the Necklace Affair opened 
its flood-gates of ridicule and calumny, his former 
admirers saw him washed away with indifference. To 
defend him was to risk being compromised along with 
him ; and, no doubt, as happens in our own times, the 
pleasure of trailing in the mud one who has fallen 
was too delightful to be neglected. It is from this 
epoch — 1785 — when people were engaged in blighting 
his character rather than in trying to judge it, that 
nearly all the material relating to Cagliostro dates. 
With only such documents, then, to hand as have 
been inspired by hate, envy, or simply a love of 
detraction, the difficulty of forming a correct opinion 
of him is apparent. 

The portrait Carlyle has drawn of Cagliostro is the 
one most familiar to English readers. Now, though 
Carlyle's judgments have in the main been upheld by 
the latest historians (who have had the advantage of 
information to which he was denied access), neverthe- 
less, like everybody else, he made mistakes. In his case, 
however, these mistakes were inexcusable, for they 
were due, not to the lack of data, but to the strong 
prejudices by which he suffered himself to be swayed 
to the exclusion of that honesty and fairness he deemed 
so essential to the historian. He approached Cagliostro 
with a mind already biassed against him. Distasteful 
at the start, the subject on closer acquaintance became 
positively repugnant to him. The flagrant mendacity 
of the documentary evidence — which, discount it as he 

B2 3 


might, still left the truth in doubt— only served to 
strengthen his prejudice. It could surely be no inno- 
cent victim of injustice who aroused contempt so 
malevolent, hatred so universal. The mystery in 
which he masqueraded was alone sufficient to excite 
suspicion. And yet, whispered the conscience of the 
historian enraged at the mendacity of the witnesses he 
consulted, what noble ideals, what lofty aspirations 
misjudged, misunderstood, exposed to ridicule, pelted 
with calumny, may not have sought shelter under that 
mantle of mystery ? 

''Looking at thy so attractively decorated private 
theatre, wherein thou actedst and livedst," he exclaims, 
•* what hand but itches to draw aside thy curtain ; 
overhaul thy paste-boards, paint-pots, paper-mantles, 
stage-lamps ; and turning the whole inside out, find 
thee in the middle thereof! " 

And suiting the action to the word, he clutches with 
an indignant hand at that metaphorical curtain ; but 
in the very act of drawing it aside his old ingrained 
prejudice asserts itself. Bah ! what else but a fraud 
can a Grand Cophta of Egyptian Masonry be ? Can 
a Madame von der Recke, a Baroness d'Oberkirch, 
whose opinions at least are above suspicion, be other 
than right } The man is a shameless liar ; and if he 
has been so shamelessly lied about in turn, he has only 
got what he deserved. And exasperated that such 
a creature should have been permitted even for a 
moment to cross the threshold of history, Carlyle 
dropped the curtain his fingers '' itched to draw aside" 
and proceeded to empty all the vials of his wrath 
on Cagliostro. 

In his brilliant essay, in the Diamond Necklace^ in the 


The Power of Prejudice 

French Revolution — wherever he meets him — he brands 
him as a " King of Liars," a '' Prince of Scoundrels," 
an "Arch-Quack," ''Count Front of Brass-Pinch- 
beckostrum," " Bubby-jock," "a babbling, bubbling 
Turkey-cock," et cetera. But such violence defeats its 
intention. When on every page the historian's con- 
science is smitten with doubts that prejudice cannot 
succeed in stilling, the critical and inquisitive reader 
comes to the conclusion he knows less about the real 
Cagliostro at the end than he did at the beginning. 
He has merely seen Carlyle in one of his fine literary 
rages ; it is all very interesting and memorable, but 
by no means what he wanted. As a matter of fact, in 
this instance Carlyle's judgment is absolutely at sea ; 
and the modern biographers of Cagliostro do not even 
refer to it. 

Nevertheless, these writers have come pretty much 
to the same conclusion. M. Henri d'Almeras, whose 
book on Cagliostro is the best, speaking of the 
questionable evidence that so incensed Carlyle, 
declares "the historian, even in handling it with care, 
finds himself willy-nilly adopting the old prejudice. 
That is to say, every book written on Cagliostro, even 
under the pretext of rehabilitating him, can only be 
a book against him." But while holding to the old 
conventional opinion, he considers that " a rogue so 
picturesque disarms anger, and deserves to be treated 
with indulgence." D'Almeras pictures Cagliostro as 
a sort of clown, which is certainly the most curious 
view ever taken of the " Front of Brass," and even 
more unjustifiable than Carlyle's. 

" What a good-natured, amusing, original rascal ! " 
he exclaims. " The Figaro of Alchogiy, more intelli- 

5 S' \u^ -^'^^ 

F f ^l ^ 


gent than Diafoirus, and more cunning than Scapln. 
And with what imperturbable serenity did he lie in 
five or six languages, as well as in a gibberish that 
had no meaning at all. To lie like that gives one a 
great superiority over the majority of one's fellow-men. 
He did not lie because he was afraid to speak the 
truth, but because, as in the case of many another, 
falsehood was in him an excessive development of the 
imagination. He was himself, moreover, the first 
victim of his lies. By the familiar phenomenon of 
auto-suggestion, he ended by believing what he said 
from force of saying it. If he was successful, in a 
certain sense, he deserved to be." 

From all of which it may be gathered that whether 
Cagliostro is depicted as an Apostle of Light by his 
friends the occultists, or a rank impostor by his enemies, 
of whom Carlyle is the most implacable and d'Almeras 
the most charitably inclined, the real man has been as 
effectually hidden from view by prejudice as by the 
mystery in which he wrapped himself. But heavy 
though the curtain is that conceals him, it is perhaps 
possible for the hand that ''itches" to draw it aside. 
As a matter of fact, no really honest attempt has ever 
been made to do so. It is true it is only a fleeting, 
somewhat nebulous, glimpse that can be obtained of 
this singular personality. There is, moreover, one 
condition to be observed. Before this glimpse can be 
obtained it is essential that some attempt should be 
made to discover, if possible, who Cagliostro was. 

The Power of Prejudice 


Considering- that one has only to turn to the 
biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias to find it 
definitely asserted that ''Count Cagliostro " was the 
best known of many aliases assumed by Giuseppe 
Balsamo, a Sicilian adventurer born in Palermo in 
1743 or 1748, the above statement would appear to 
be directly contrary to recorded fact. For though 
biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias are 
notoriously superficial and frequently misleading, they 
are perhaps in this instance accurate enough for the 
purpose of casual inquiry, which is after all what they 
are compiled for. Indeed, this Balsamo legend is so 
plausible an explanation of the mystery of Cagliostro's 
origin that, for lack of any other, it has satisfied all 
who are entitled to be regarded as authorities. The 
evidence, however, on which they have based their 
belief is circumstantial rather than positive. 

Now circumstantial evidence, as everybody knows, 
is not always to be trusted. There are many cases on 
record of persons having been condemned on the 
strength of it who were afterwards found to be inno- 
cent. In this particular case, moreover, doubts do 
exist, and all "authorities" have admitted the fact. 
Those prejudiced against Cagliostro have agreed to 
attach no importance to them, those prejudiced in his 
favour the greatest. To the occultists they are the 
rock on which their faith in him is founded. Their 
opinion, however, may be ruled aside as untenable, 
for the doubts are entirely of a negative character, and 
suggest no counter-theory of identity whatever. 



Nevertheless, since they exist they are worth 
examining — not so much for the purpose of questioning 
the accuracy of the ''authorities" as to show how the 
Balsamo legend, which plays so important a part in the 
history of Cagliostro, originated. 

It was not till Cardinal Rohan entangled him in the 
Diamond Necklace Affair that the name of Cagliostro 
hitherto familiar only to a limited number of people 
who, as the case might be, had derived benefit or 
suffered misfortune from a personal experience of his 
fabulous powers, acquired European notoriety. 

The excitement caused by this cause cdlebre, as is well 
known, was intense and universal. The arrest of the 
Cardinal in the Oeil-de-Boeuf at Versailles, in the 
presence of the Court and a great concourse of people 
from Paris, as he was about to celebrate mass in the 
Royal Chapel on Assumption Day, on the charge of 
having purchased a necklace for 1,600,000 livres for 
the Queen, who denied all knowledge of the trans- 
action ; the subsequent disappearance of the jewel 
and the suspicion of intent to swindle the jeweller 
which attached itself to both Queen and Cardinal ; the 
further implication of the Countess de Lamotte, with 
her strangely romantic history ; of Cagliostro, with his 
mystery and magic; and of a host of other shady 
persons — these were elements sensational enough to 
strike the dullest imagination, fire the wildest curiosity, 
and rivet the attention of all Europe upon the actors 
in so unparalleled a drama. 

After the Cardinal, whose position as Grand 
Almoner of France (a sort of French Archbishop of 
Canterbury, so to speak) made him the protagonist of 
this drama, the self-styled Count Cagliostro was the 



{P'rom an old French print) 

[To face page S 

The Power of Prejudice 

figure in whom the pubHc were most interested. The 
prodigies he was said to have performed, magnified by 
rumour, and his strange undecipherable personality- 
gave him an importance out of all proportion to the 
small part he played in the famous Affair of the 
Necklace. Speculation as to his origin was naturally 
rife. But neither the police nor the lawyers could 
throw any light on his past. The evidence of the 
Countess de Lamotte, who in open court denounced 
him as an impostor formerly known as Don Tiscio, a 
name under which she declared he had fleeced many 
people in various parts of Spain, was too palpably 
untrustworthy and ridiculous to be treated seriously. 
Cagliostro himself did, indeed, attempt to satisfy 
curiosity, but the fantastic account he gave of his 
career only served — as perhaps he intended — to deepen 
its mystery. 

The more it was baffled, the keener became the 
curiosity to discover a secret so cleverly guarded. 
The " noble traveller," as he described himself with 
ridiculous pomposity on his examination, confessed 
that Cagliostro was only one of the several names 
he had assumed in the course of his life. An alias 
— he had termed it incognito — is always suspicious. 
Coupled, as it was in his case, with alchemical experi- 
ments, prognostications, spiritualist stances, and quack 
medicines, it suggested rascality. From ridicule to 
calumny is but a step, and for every voice raised in 
defence of his honesty there were a dozen to decry 

On the day he was set at liberty — for he had no 
difficulty in proving his innocence — eight or ten 
thousand people came en masse to offer him their 



congratulations. The court-yard, the staircase, the 
very rooms of his house In the Rue St. Claude were 
filled with them. But this ovation, flattering though It 
was to his vanity, was Intended less as a mark of 
respect to him than as an Insult to the Queen, who was 
known to regard the verdict as a stigma on her honour, 
and whose waning popularity the hatred engendered 
by this scandalous affair had completely obliterated. 
Banished the following day by the Government, 
which sought to repair the prestige of the throne 
by persecuting and calumniating those who might be 
deemed instrumental In shattering It, Cagliostro lost 
what little credit the trial had left him. WAoever 
he was, the world had made up Its mind w/za^ he 
was, and Its opinion was wholly unfavourable to the 
** noble traveller." 

From France, which he left on June 21, 1786, 
Cagliostro went to England. It was here, in the 
following September, that the assertion was made for 
the first time by the Courier de I' Europe, a French 
paper published in London, that he was Giuseppe 
Balsamo. This announcement, made with every 
assurance of its accuracy, was at once repeated by 
other journals throughout Europe. It would be 
interesting, though not particularly important, to know 
how the Courier de V Europe obtained its information. 
It is permissible, however, to conjecture that the 
Anglo-French journal had been informed of the 
rumour current in Palermo at the time of Cagllostro's 
imprisonment in the Bastille that he was a native of 
that city, and on investigating the matter decided 
there were sufficient grounds for identifying him with 


The Power of Prejudice 

Be this as it may, it is the manner in which the 
statement made by the Courier de FEtirope appears 
to be confirmed that gives the whole theory its 


On December 2, 1876 — dates are important factors 
in the evidence — Fontaine, the chief of the Paris 
poHce, received a very curious anonymous letter 
from Palermo. The writer began by saying that he 
had read in the Gazette de Leyde of September 25 an 
article taken from the Courier de r Europe stating that 
the '' famous Cagliostro was called Balsamo," from 
which he gathered that the Balsamo referred to was 
the same who in 1773 had caused his wife to be shut 
up in Sainte Pelagie at Paris for having deserted 
him, and who had afterwards applied to the courts 
for her release. To confirm Fontaine in this opinion, 
he gave him in detail the history of this Balsamo's 
career, which had been imparted to him on June 2 
by the said Balsamo's uncle, Antonio Braconieri, 
who was firmly convinced that his nephew, of whom 
he had heard nothing for some years, was none other 
than Cagliostro. As he learnt this the day after 
Cagliostro's acquittal and release from the Bastille, 
the newS' of which could not have reached Palermo 
in less than a week, it proves that Braconieri's con- 
viction was formed long before the Press began to 
maintain it. 

In fact the anonymous writer stated that this 
conviction was prevalent in Palermo as far back as 
the previous year, when the news arrived there of the 
arrest of Cagliostro in connection with the Diamond 
Necklace Affair. 

He went on to say that he had personally ridiculed 

1 1 


the report at the time, but having reflected on the 
grounds that Braconieri had given him for believing 
it '*he had come to the conclusion that Count 
Cagliostro was Giuseppe Balsamo of Palermo or that 
Antonio Braconieri, his uncle, was a scoundrel worthy 
of being the uncle of M. le Comte de Cagliostro." 
As it was not till November 2 that this some- 
what ingenuous person sent anonymously to Fontaine 
the information he had received on June 2 from 
Braconieri, his reflections on the veracity of the 
latter, one suspects, were scarcely complimentary. 
However, such doubts as he might still have cherished 
were finally set at rest on October 31, when 
Antonio Braconieri met him in one of the chief 
thoroughfares of Palermo and showed him a Gazette 
de Florence which confirmed everything Braconieri 
had told him more than four months before. Here- 
upon, the anonymous individual, convinced at last 
beyond the shadow of a doubt that the '' soi-disant 
Count Cagliostro was really Giuseppe Balsamo of 
Palermo," decided to inform the chief of the Paris 
police of his discovery. 

Such is the history of the proofs in favour of the 
Balsamo legend. Now to examine the proofs. 

As the late M. fimile Campardon was the first 
to unearth this anonymous letter together with the 
official report upon it in the National Archives, and as 
his opinion is the one commonly accepted, it will be 
sufficient to quote what he has to say on the subject. 

"The adventures," he asks, '* of Giuseppe Balsamo 
and those of Alessandro Cagliostro— do they belong 
to the history of the same career ? Was the individual 
who had his wife shut up in Sainte Pelagie in 1773 


The Power of Prejudice 

the same who In 1786 protested so vehemently against 
the imprisonment of his wife ? ^ 

'' Everything goes to prove it. The Countess 
CagHostro was born in Rome ; Balsamo's wife was 
likewise a Roman. The maiden name of both was 

'' Madame Balsamo was married at fourteen ; the 
Countess CagHostro at the time of her marriage was 
still a child. 

'* CagHostro stated at his trial that his wife did not 
know how to write ; Madame Balsamo at kerlndX also 
declared she could not write. 

" Her husband at any rate could. At the time of 
his petition against his wife Balsamo signed two 
documents which are still to be seen in the Archives. 
By comparing — as Fontaine had done — these two 
signatures with a letter written whilst in the Bastille 
by CagHostro the experts declared the writing of 
Balsamo and that of CagHostro to be identically the 

''Furthermore, according to the statement of Antonio 
Braconieri, Balsamo had frequently written him under 
the name of Count CagHostro. Nor had he invented 
the name, for Giuseppe CagHostro of Messina, steward 
of the Prince of Villafranca, was Braconieri's uncle, and 
consequently Giuseppe Balsamo's great-uncle. 

** If to these probabilities one adds certain minor 
resemblances — such as Cagliostro's declaration that 
Cardinal Orsini and the Duke of Alba could vouch for 
the truth of the account he gave of himself, who were 

1 On hearing that his wife had been arrested as well as himself in 
connection with the Necklace Affair, CagHostro manifested the wildest 



personages by whom Balsamo was known to have been 
employed ; the fact that Cagliostro spoke the Sicilian 
dialect, and that Balsamo had employed magic in his 
swindling operations — it is scarcely credible that lives 
and characters so identical could belong to two 
different beings." 

The arguments in favour of this hypothesis are very 
plausible and apparently as convincing as such circum- 
stantial evidence usually is. It is possible, however, 
as stated above, to question the accuracy of the 
conclusion thus reached for the following reasons. 

(i) The basis of the supposition that the Countess 
Cagliostro and Madame Balsamo were the same rests 
entirely on coincidence. 

Granted that both happened to be Romans, that 
the maiden name of both was Feliciani, that both were 
married extremely young, and that neither could write. 
The fact that both were Romans is no argument at 
all. Though their maiden name was Feliciani, it was 
a comparatively common one — there were several 
families of Feliciani in Rome, and for that matter all 
over Italy. Madame Balsamo's father came from 
Calabria. Her Christian name was Lorenza. The 
statement that the Countess Cagliostro w^as likewise 
called Lorenza and changed her name to Seraphina, by 
which she was known, is based entirely on supposition. 
That both were married very young and that neither 
knew how to write, scarcely calls for comment. Italian 
women usually married in early girlhood, and very few, 
if any, of the class to which Seraphina Cagliostro 
and Lorenza Balsamo belonged could write. 

(2) The testimony of the experts as to the remark- 
able similarity between the writing of Balsamo and 


The Power of Prejudice 

Cagliostro requires something more than an official 
statement to that effect to be convincing. At the time 
the experts made their report, the French Government 
were trying to silence the calumnies with which Marie 
Antoinette was being attacked by making the character 
of Cagliostro and others connected with the Necklace 
Affair appear as bad as possible. The Parisian 
police in the interest of the Monarchy, jumped at the 
opportunity of identifying the mysterious Cagliostro 
with the infamous Balsamo. The experts' evidence is, 
to say the least, questionable. 

(3) The fact that Giuseppe Balsamo had an uncle 
called Giuseppe Cagliostro is the strongest argument 
in favour of the identification theory. There is no 
reason to doubt Antonio Braconieri's statement that he 
had received letters from his nephew signed " Count 
Cagliostro." However, the writer of the anonymous 
letter declared that, desiring to prove Braconieri's word 
as to the existence of Giuseppe Cagliostro of Messina, 
he discovered that there were two families of the name 
in that city. The prefix Cagli, moreover, is not 
unusual in Sicilian, Calabrian and Neapolitan names. 
The selection of it by Cagliostro as an incognito may 
have been accidental, or invented because of its peculiar 
cabalistic suggestion as suitable for the occult career 
on which he embarked, or it may have been suggested 
to him by some one of the name he had met when 
wandering about southern Italy. As his identifica- 
tion with Balsamo is based principally on coincidence, 
it is surely equally permissible to employ a coincidence 
as the basis of one of the many arguments in an 
attempt at refutation. 

(4) As to the minor points of resemblance between 



Cagliostro and Balsamo given as "probabilities" for 
supposing them identical : in considering that Cagliostro 
used as references the names of Cardinal Orsini and 
the Duke of Alba, by whom Balsamo was known to 
have been employed at one time, the fantastic account 
he gave of himself at his trial should be remembered. 
One of the principal reasons for disbelieving him was 
the fact that these personages were dead and so unable 
to verify or deny his statement. Again, though the 
Sicilian dialect was undoubtedly Balsamo's mother- 
tongue, no one could ever make out to what patois 
Cagliostro's extraordinary abracadabra of accent be- 
longed. But nothing can be weaker than to advance 
their use of magic and alchemy as a reason for identify- 
ing them. Magic and alchemy were the common 
stock-in-trade of every adventurer in Europe in the 
eighteenth century. 

So much for criticism of the " official " proof. 

There is, however, another reason for doubting the 
identity of the two men. It is the most powerful of 
all, and has hitherto apparently escaped the attention 
of those who have taken this singular theory of 
identification for granted. 

Nobody that had known Balsamo ever saw 

The description of Balsamo's features given by 
Antonio Braconieri resembles that which others have 
given of Cagliostro's personal appearance as far as it 
goes. Unfortunately, it merely proves that both were 
short, had dark complexions, and peculiarly bright 
eyes. As for their noses, Braconieri described 
Balsamo's as being dcrasd ; it is a much more forcible 
and unflattering term than has ever been applied to 


The Power of Prejudice 

the by no means uncommon shape of Cagliostro 's 
nasal organ. There were many pictures of Cagliostro 
scattered over Europe at the time of the Necklace 
Affair. In Palermo, where the interest taken in him 
was great, few printsellers' windows, one would 
imagine, but would have contained his portrait. 
Braconieri certainly is likely to have seen it ; and 
had the resemblance to Balsamo been undeniable, he 
would surely have attached the greatest importance 
to it as a proof of the identity he desired to establish. 
As a matter of fact, he barely mentions it. 

Again, one wonders why nobody who had known 
Balsamo ever made the least attempt to identify 
Cagliostro with him either at the time of the trial or 
when the articles in the Courier de r Europe brought 
him a second time prominently before the public. 
Now Balsamo was known to have lived in London in 
1 771, when his conduct was so suspicious to the police 
that he deemed it advisable to leave the country. He 
and his wife accordingly went to Paris, and it was here 
that, in 1773, the events occurred which brought both 
prominently under the notice of the authorities. Six 
years after Balsamo's disappearance from London, 
Count Cagliostro appeared in that city, and becoming 
involved with a set of swindlers in a manner that made 
him appear a fool rather than a knave, spent four months 
in the King's Bench jail. How is it, one asks, that 
the London police, who "wanted" Giuseppe Balsamo, 
utterly failed to recognize him in the notorious 
Cagliostro ? 

Now granting that the police, as well as the 
persons whom Balsamo fleeced in London in 1771, 
had forgotten him in 1777, and that all who could 
c 17 


have recognized him as Cagliostro in 1786, when 
the Courier de r Europe exposed him, were dead, 
is it probable that the same coincidences would repeat 
themselves in Paris ? If the Parisian police, who were 
doing their best to discover traces of Cagliostro's 
antecedents in 1785 and 1786 had quite forgotten the 
Balsamo who brought the curious action against his 
wife in 1773, is it at all likely that the various people 
the Balsamos had known in their two-years' residence 
in Paris would all have died in the meantime ? 
People are always to be found to identify criminals 
and suspicious characters to whom the attention of the 
police is prominently drawn. But before the sort of 
Sherlock Holmes process of identification employed 
by the Courier de H Europe and the Parisian police, not 
a soul was ever heard to declare that Cagliostro and 
Balsamo were the same. 

To the reader who, knowing little or nothing of 
Cagliostro, takes up this book with an unbiassed 
mind, the above objections to the Balsamo legend may 
seem proof conclusive of its falsity. This would, 
however, be to go further than I, who attach much 
greater importance to these doubts than historians are 
inclined to do, care to admit. They merely show that 
it is neither right nor excusable to treat as a conviction 
what is purely a conjecture. 

If this conclusion, wrapping as it does the origin 
and early life of Cagliostro once more in a veil of 
mystery, be accepted, it will go far to remove the 
prejudice which has hitherto made the answer to 
that other and more important question *' What 
was Cagliostro ? " so unsatisfactory. 




There could be no better illustration of the perplexi- 
ties that confront the biographer of Cagliostro at every 
stage of his mysterious career than the uncertainty that 
prevails regarding the career of Giuseppe Balsamo 
himself. For rightly or wrongly, their identity has so 
long been taken for granted that the history of one has 
become indissolubly linked to that of the other. 

Now, not only is it extremely difficult, when not 
altogether impossible, to verify the information we 
have concerning Balsamo, but the very integrity of 
those from whom the information is derived, is 
questionable. These tainted sources, so to speak, 
from which there meanders a confused and maze- 
like stream of contradictory details and unverifiable 
episodes, are (i) Balsamo's wife, Lorenza, (2) the 
Editor of the Courier de r Europe, and (3) the 
Inquisition-biographer of Cagliostro. 

Lorenza's statement is mainly the itinerary of the 
wanderings of herself cind husband about Europe 
from their marriage to her imprisonment in Paris in 
^11 Z' Such facts as it purports to give as to the 
character of their wanderings are very meagre, and 
coloured so as to depict her in a favourable light. The 
dossier containing the particulars of her arrest is in 
c 2 19 


the Archives of Paris, where it was discovered by the 
French Government in 1786, and where it is still to be 
seen. Query : considering the suspicious circumstances 
that led to its discovery, is the dossier a forgery ? 

Opposed to the evidence of the Courier de I' Europe 
are the character, secret motives, and avowed enmity 
of the Editor. 

As to the life of Balsamo,^ published anonymously 
in Rome in 1791, under the auspices of the Inquisition, 
into whose power Cagliostro had fallen, the tone of 
hostility in which it is written, excessive even from an 
ultra-Catholic point of view, its lack of precision, and 
the absence of dates which makes it impossible to verify 
its statements, have caused critics of every shade 
of opinion, to consider it partially, if not wholly, 

It purports to be the confession of Cagliostro, 
extracted either by torture or the fear of torture, during 
his trial by the Inquisition. That Cagliostro did 
indeed " confess " is quite likely. But what sort of 
value could such a confession possibly have? The 
manner in which the Inquisition conducted its trials 
has rendered its verdicts suspect the world over. His 
condemnation was decided on from the very start, as 
the charge on which he was arrested proves — as will 
be shown in due course — and to escape torture, perhaps 
also in the hope of acquittal, Cagliostro was ready 
enough to oblige his terrible judges and ** confess" 
whatever they wished. 

] This book is now very rare. The French version is the more 
available. It is entitled : Vie de ^ foseph Balsamo connu sous le noni de 
Comte Cagliostro, extraite de la procedure instruite contre lui h Rome 
en jy^; traduite d'aprh Voriginal italien, imprime a la Chambre 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

It is, moreover, a question whether the adventures 
related in the Vie de Joseph Balsamo are those of one or 
of several persons. As it is quite inconceivable that the 
Cagliostro of the Necklace Affair could ever have been 
the very ordinary adventurer here depicted, it has been 
suggested — and there is much to support the view — 
that Giuseppe Balsamo, as known to history, is a sort of 
composite individual manufactured out of all the rogues 
of whom the Inquisition- writer had any knowledge. 

One thing, however, may be confidently asserted : 
whether the exploits of Giuseppe Balsamo were partially 
or wholly his, imaginary or real, they are at any rate 
typical of the adventurer of the age. 

Like Cagliostro, he boasted a noble origin, and 
never failed on the various occasions of changing his 
name to give himself a title. There is, however, no 
reason to suppose that he was in any way related to, or 
even aware of the existence of the aristocratic family 
of the same name who derived their title from the 
little town of Balsamo near Monza in the Milanese. 
As a matter of fact the name was a fairly common 
one in Italy, and the Balsamos of Palermo were of 
no consequence whatever. Nothing is known of 
Giuseppe's father, beyond the fact that he was a 
petty tradesman who became bankrupt, and died at 
the age of forty-five, a few months after the birth 
of his son. Pietro Balsamo was thought to be of 
mixed Jewish and Moorish extraction, which would 
account for his obscurity and the slight esteem in 
which his name was held in Palermo, where the 
Levantines were the scum of the population. 

Such scant consideration as the family may have 
enjoyed was due entirely to Giuseppe's mother, who 



though of humble birth was of good, honest Sicilian 
stock. Through her he could at least claim to have 
had a great-grandfather, one Matteo Martello, whom 
it has been supposed Cagliostro had in mind when in 
his fantastic account of himself at the time of the 
Necklace Affair he claimed to be descended from 
Charles Martel, the founder of the Carlovingian 
dynasty. This Matteo Martello had two daughters, 
the youngest of whom Vincenza married Giuseppe 
Cagliostro of Messina, whose name and relationship 
to Giuseppe Balsamo is the chief argument in the 
attempt to prove the identity of the latter with Cagli- 
ostro. Vincenza's elder sister married Giuseppe 
Braconieri and had three children, Felice, Matteo, and 
Antonio Braconieri. The former was Giuseppe's mother. 
He had also a sister older than himself, Maria, who 
became the wife of Giovanni Capitummino. On the 
death of her husband she returned with her children 
to live with her mother, all of whom Goethe met when 
in Palermo in 1787. 

The poverty in which Pietro Balsamo died obliged 
his widow to appeal to her brother for assistance. 
Fortunately they were in a position and willing to come 
to her relief. Matteo, the elder, was chief clerk in 
the post-office at Palermo ; while Antonio was book- 
keeper in the firm of J. F. Aubert & Co. Both 
brothers, as well as their sister, appear to have been 
deeply religious, and it is not unlikely that the severity 
and repression to which Giuseppe was continually sub- 
jected may have fostered the spirit of rebellion, already 
latent in him, which was to turn him into the black- 
guard he became. • 

It manifested itself at an early age. From the 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

Seminary of San Rocco, where he received his first 
schooling, he ran away several times. As the rod, 
which appears to have played an important part in the 
curriculum of the seminary, failed to produce the bene- 
ficial results that are supposed to ensue from its fre- 
quent application, his uncles, anxious to get rid of so 
troublesome a charge, decided to confide the difficult 
task of coaxing or licking him into shape to the Ben- 
fratelli of Cartegirone. Giuseppe was accordingly en- 
rolled as a novice in this brotherhood, whose existence 
was consecrated to the healing of the sick, and placed 
under the supervision of the Convent-Apothecary. 
He was at the time thirteen. 

According to the Inquisition-biographer, it was in 
the laboratory of the convent that Cagliostro learnt 
"the principles of chemistry and medicine" which he 
afterwards practised with such astonishing results. If 
so, he must have been gifted with remarkable aptitude, 
which both his conduct and brief sojourn at Cartegirone 
belie. For whatever hopes his mother and uncles may 
have founded on the effect of this pious environment 
were soon dispelled. He had not been long in the 
convent before he manifested his utter distaste for the 
life of a Brother of Mercy. Naturally insubordinate 
and bold he determined to escape ; but as experience 
had taught him at the Seminary of San Rocco that 
running away merely resulted in being thrashed and 
sent back, and as he had neither the means nor the 
desire to go anywhere save home to Palermo, he 
cunningly cast about in his mind to obtain his release 
from the Brothers themselves. This was not easy to 
accomplish, but in spite of the severe punishment his 
wilfully idle and refractory conduct entailed he was 


persistent and finally succeeded in wearing out the 
patience of the long-suffering monks. 

From the manner in which he attained his object 
Carlyle detects in him a "touch of grim humour — or 
deep world-irony, as the Germans call it — the surest 
sign, as is often said, of a character naturally great." 
It was a universal custom in all religious associations 
that one of their number during meals should read 
aloud to the others passages from the Lives of the 
Saints. This dull and unpopular task having one day 
been allotted to Giuseppe — probably as a punishment 
— he straightway proceeded, careless of the conse- 
quences, to read out whatever came into his head, 
substituting for the names of the Saints those of the 
most notable courtezans of Palermo. The effect of 
this daring sacrilege was dire and immediate. With 
fist and foot the scandalized monks instantly fell upon 
the boy and having belaboured him, as the saying is, 
within an inch of his life, indignantly packed him back 
to Palermo as hopelessly incorrigible and utterly un- 
worthy of ever becoming a Benfratello. 

No fatted calf, needless to say, was killed to cele- 
brate the return of the prodigal. But Giuseppe having 
gained his object, took whatever chastisement he re- 
ceived from his mother and uncles philosophically, and 
left them to swallow their mortification as best they 
could. However, sorely tried though they were, they 
did not even now wash their hands of him. Somehow 
— ^just how it would be difficult to say — one forms a 
vague idea he was never without a plausible excuse for 
his conduct. Adventurers, even the lowest, more or 
less understand the art of pleasing ; and many little 
things seem to indicate that with all his viciousness his 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

disposition was not unattractive. On the contrary 
there is much in the character of his early villainies to 
suggest his powers of persuasion were considerable. 

Thus, after his expulsion from Cartegirone the 
Inquisition-biographer tells us that he took lessons in 
drawing for which, no doubt, he must have given some 
proof of talent and inclination. Far, however, from 
showing any disposition to conform to the wishes of 
his uncles, who for his mother's sake, if not for his 
own, continued to take an interest in him, the boy 
rapidly went from bad to worse. As neither reproof 
nor restraint produced any effect on his headstrong 
and rebellious nature he appears to have been per- 
mitted to run wild, perhaps because he had reached an 
age when it was no longer possible to control his 
actions. Nor were the acquaintances he formed of 
the sort to counteract a natural tendency to vicious- 
ness. He was soon hand in glove with all the worst 
characters of the town. 

'' There was no fight or street brawl,'' says the in- 
dignant Inquisition-biographer, " in which he was not 
involved, no theft of which he was not suspected. 
The band of young desperadoes to which he belonged 
frequently came into collision with the night-watch, 
whose prisoners, if any, they would attempt to set free. 
Even the murder of a canon was attributed to him by 
the gossips of the town." 

In a word Giuseppe Balsamo became a veritable 
'' Apache " destined seemingly sooner or later for the 
galleys or the gallows. Such a character, it goes with- 
out saying, could not fail to attract the notice of the 
police. He more than once saw the inside of the 
Palermo jail ; but from lack of sufficient proof, or from 



the nature of the charge against him, or owing to the 
intercession of his estimable uncles, as often as he was 
arrested he was let off again. 

Even his drawing-lessons, while they lasted, were 
perverted to the most ignoble ends. To obtain the 
money he needed he began, like all thieves, with petty 
thefts from his relations. One of his uncles was his 
first victim. In a similar way he derived profit from 
a love-affair between his sister and a cousin. As their 
parents put obstacles in the way of their meeting 
Giuseppe offered to act as go-between. In a rash 
moment they accepted his aid, and he profited by the 
occasion to substitute forged letters in the place of 
those he undertook to deliver, by means of which he 
got possession of the presents the unsuspecting lovers 
were induced to exchange. Encouraged by the skill 
he displayed in imitating hand-writing and copying 
signatures — which seems to have been the extent of 
his talent for drawing — he turned it to account in other 
and more profitable ways. Somehow — perhaps by 
hints dropped by himself in the right quarter — his 
proficiency in this respect, and his readiness to give 
others the benefit of it for a consideration, got known. 
From forging tickets to the theatre for his companions, 
he was employed to forge leave-of-absence passes for 
monks, and even to forge a will in favour of a certain 
Marquis Maurigi, by which a religious institution was 
defrauded of a large legacy. 

There is another version of this affair which the 
Inquisition-writer has naturally ignored, and from which 
it would appear that it was the marquis who was de- 
frauded of the legacy by the religious institution. But 
be this trifling detail as it may, the fact remains that 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

the forgery was so successfully effected that it was not 
discovered till several years later, when some attempt 
was made to bring Balsamo to justice, which the im- 
possibility of ascertaining whether he was alive or 
dead, rendered abortive. 

Such sums of money, however, as he obtained in 
this way must of necessity have been small. It could 
only have been in copper that his '' Apache " friends 
and the monks paid him for the theatre-tickets and 
convent-passes he forged for them. Nor was the notary 
by whom he was employed to forge the will, and who, 
we are told, was a relation, likely to be much more 
liberal. In Palermo then, as to-day, scoresof just such 
youths as Giuseppe Balsamo were to be found ready 
to perform any villainy for a fifty centime piece. He 
accordingly sought other means of procuring the money 
he needed and as none, thanks to his compatriots' 
notorious credulity, was likely to prove so remunerative 
as an appeal to their love of the marvellous, he had 
recourse to what was known as *' sorcery." 

It is to the questionable significance attached to 
this word that the prejudice against Cagliostro, whose 
wonders were attributed to magic, has been very largely 
due. For it is only of comparatively recent date that 
'* sorcery " so-called has ceased to be anathema, owing 
to the belated investigations of science, which is always, 
and perhaps with reason, suspicious of occult pheno- 
mena, by which the indubitable existence of certain 
powers — as yet only partially explained — active in 
some, passive in others, and perhaps latent in all 
human beings, has been revealed. And even still, 
so great is the force of tradition, many judging from 
the frauds frequently perpetrated by persons claim- 



ing to possess these secret powers, regard with suspicion, 
if not with downright contempt, all that is popularly 
designated as sorcery, magic, or witchcraft. 

But this is not the place to* discuss the methods 
by which those who work miracles obtain their results. 
Suffice it to say, there has been from time immemorial 
a belief in the ability of certain persons to control the 
forces of nature. Nowhere is this belief stronger than 
in Sicily. There the '' sorcerer " is as common as the 
priest ; not a village but boasts some sibyl, seer, or 
wonder-worker. That all are not equally efficient, 
goes without saying. Some possess remarkable 
powers, which they themselves would probably be 
unable to explain. Others, like Giuseppe Balsamo, 
are only able to deceive very simple or foolish people 
easy to deceive. 

From the single instance cited of Giuseppe's skill 
in this direction one infers his magical gifts were of 
the crystal-gazing, sand-divination kind — the ordinary 
kind with which everybody is more or less familiar, 
if only by name. According to the Inquisition- 
biographer, **one day whilst he and his companions 
were idling away the time together the conversation 
having turned upon a certain girl whom they all knew, 
one of the number wondered what she was doing at 
that moment, whereupon Giuseppe immediately offered 
to gratify him. Marking a square on the ground he 
made some passes with his hands above it, after which 
the figure of the girl was seen in the square playing 
at tressette with three of her friends." So great was 
the effect of this exhibition of clairvoyance, thought- 
transference, hypnotic suggestion, what you will, upon 
the amazed Apaches that they went at once to look 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

for the girl and '* found her in the same attitude 
playing the very game and with the very persons that 
Balsamo had shown them." 

The fact that such phenomena are of quite common 
occurrence and to be witnessed any day in large cities 
and summer-resorts on payment of fees, varying 
according to the renown of the performer, has robbed 
them if not of their attraction at least of their wonder. 
One has come to take them for granted. Whatever 
may be the scientific explanation of such occult — the 
word must serve for want of a better — power as 
Giuseppe possessed, he himself, we may be sure, 
would only have been able to account for it as " sorcery." 
He was not likely to be a whit less superstitious than 
the people with whom he associated. Indeed, his 
faith in the efficacy of the magic properties attributed 
by vulgar superstition to sacred things would appear 
to have been greater than his faith in his own 
supernatural powers. 

It is reported of him on one occasion that ** under 
pretext of curing his sister, who he said was possessed 
of a devil, he obtained from a priest in the country a 
little cotton dipped in holy oil," to which, doubtless, 
he attached great importance as the means of success- 
fully performing some wonder he had no confidence in 
his own powers to effect. Such cryptic attributes as 
he had been endowed with must have been very 
slight, or undeveloped, for there is no reference what- 
ever to the marvellous in the swindles of his sub- 
sequent history in which one would expect him to 
have employed it. Very probably whatever magnetic, 
hypnotic, or telepathic faculty he possessed was first 
discovered by the apothecary under whom he was 



placed in the laboratory at Cartegirone, who, like all 
of his kind, no doubt, experimented in alchemy and 
kindred sciences. If so, he certainly did not stay long 
enough with the Benfratelli to turn his mysterious 
talent to account or to obtain more than the merest 
glimpse of the ''sorcery," of which, though banned by 
the Church, the monasteries were the secret nursery. 

Be this as it may, needless to say those who had 
witnessed Giuseppe's strange phenomenon required 
no further proof of his marvellous power, which 
rapidly noised abroad and exaggerated by rumour 
gave the young ''sorcerer" a reputation he only 
wanted an opportunity of exploiting for all it 
was worth. How long he waited for this opportunity 
is not stated, but he was still in his teens when it 
eventually turned up in the person of a " certain ninny 
of a goldsmith named Marano," whose superstition, 
avarice, and gullibility made him an easy dupe. 

One day in conversation with this man, who had 
been previously nursed to the proper pitch of cupidity, 
as one nurses a constituency before an election, 
Giuseppe informed him under pledge of the strictest 
secrecy that he knew of a certain cave not far from 
Palermo, in which a great treasure was buried. 
According to a superstition prevalent in Sicily, where 
belief in such treasure was common, it was supposed 
to be guarded by demons, and as it would be necessary 
to hire a priest to exorcize them, Giuseppe offered to 
take Marano to the spot and assist him in lifting the 
hidden wealth for the consideration of " sixty ounces 
of gold." 1 

Whatever objection Marano might have had to 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

part with such a sum was overcome by the thought ot 
gaining probably a hundred times as much. He 
accordingly paid the money and set out one night 
with Giuseppe, the priest, and another man who was 
in the secret. On arriving at the cave, preparatory 
to the ceremony of exorcism, the priest proceeded to 
evoke the demons, which was done with due solemnity 
by means of magic circles and symbols drawn upon 
the ground, incantations in Latin, et cetera. Suddenly 
hideous noises were heard, there was a flash and 
splutter of blue fire, and the air was filled with sulphur. 
Marano, who was waiting in the greatest terror for 
the materialization of the powers of darkness, in which 
he firmly believed, and who, he had been told, on 
such occasions sometimes got beyond the control of 
the exorcist, was commanded to dig where he stood. 
But scarcely had his spade struck the ground when 
the demons themselves appeared with shrieks and 
yells — some goat-herds hired for the occasion, as 
horrible as paint, burnt cork, and Marano's terrified 
imagination could paint them — and fell upon the 
wretched man. Whereupon Giuseppe and his con- 
federates took to their heels, leaving their dupe in a 
fit on the ground. 

Fool that he was, it did not take the goldsmith on 
recovering his senses long to discover that he had been 
victimized. Indifferent to the ridicule to which he 
exposed himself he lost no time in bringing an action 
against Giuseppe for the recovery of the money of 
which he had been defrauded, swearing at the same 
time to have the life of the swindler as well. Under 
such circumstances Palermo was no longer a safe place 
for the sorcerer, and taking time by the forelock he fled. 




At this stage in Balsamo's career even the In- 
quisition-biographer ceases to vouch for the accuracy 
of what he relates. 

"Henceforth," he confesses, ** we are obliged to 
accept Cagliostro's own assertions "—wrung from him 
in the torture chamber of the Castle of St. Angelo, be 
it remembered — " without the means of verifying them, 
as no further trace of his doings is to be found 

Considering that accuracy, to which no importance 
has been attached in all previous books on Cagliostro, 
is the main object of this, after such a statement the 
continuation of Balsamo's history would appear to be 
superfluous. Apart, however, from their romantic 
interest, Balsamo's subsequent adventures are really 
an aid to accuracy. For the character of the man as 
revealed by them will be found to be so dissimilar to 
Cagliostro's as to serve more forcibly than any argu- 
ment to prove how slight are the grounds for identifying 
the two. 

By relating what befell Balsamo on fleeing from 
Palermo one may judge, from the very start, of the 
sort of faith to be placed in his Inquisition-biographer. 
In Cagliostro's own account of his life — which will be 
<3uly reported in its proper place — his statements in 
regard to the '' noble Althotas," that remarkable 
magician by whom he avowed he was brought up, 
were regarded as absolutely ridiculous. Nevertheless 
for the sole purpose apparently of proving Cagliostro's 
identity with Balsamo the Inquisition-biographer drags 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

this individual whose very existence is open to doubt 
into the life of the latter, and unblushingly plunges the 
two into those fabulous and ludicrous adventures, of 
which the description caused so much mirth at the 
time of the Necklace Affair. 

Thus the imaginative Inquisition-biographer de- 
clares it was at Messina, whither he went on leaving 
Palermo, that Balsamo met the " noble Althotas," 
whose power " to dematerialize himself '' was, to judge 
from the last occasion on which he was reported to 
have been seen in the flesh at Malta, only another way 
of saying that he was clever in evading the police. 
But as Balsamo after having " overrun the whole 
earth " with Althotas emerges once more into some- 
thing like reality at Naples, in the company of the 
renegade priest who had assisted in the fleecing of 
Marano, it is not unreasonable to suppose that this 
city and not Messina was his immediate destination 
on leaving Palermo. 

He did not stay long, however, at Naples. Owing 
either to a quarrel with the priest over their ill-gotten 
funds, or to a hint from the police whose suspicions his 
conduct aroused, he went to Rome. The statement 
that on his arrival he presented a letter of introduction 

' from the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta — one 
of his adventures with Althotas — to the Baron de 

; Bretteville, the envoy from Malta to the Holy See, by 
whom in turn he was introduced to Cardinals York 
and Orsini, is scarcely worth refuting. For if the 
Palermo Apache ever entered the salon of a Roman 
noble it could of course only have been via the escalier 
de service. 

The Inquisition-biographer, however, quickly re- 


duces him to a situation much more in keeping with 
his character and condition. "Not long," he says, 
"after his arrival in Rome, Balsamo was sentenced to 
three days in jail for quarrelling with one of the 
waiters at the sign of the Sun, where he lodged." 
On his release, he was, as is highly probable forced to 
live by his wits, and instead of consorting with 
Cardinals and diplomatists turned his attention to 
drawing. But as his talent in this respect appears 
to have been as limited as his knowledge of the 
occult, it is not surprising that the revenue he 
derived from the sketches he copied, or from old 
prints, freshened up and passed off as originals, was 

Love, however, is the great consoler of poverty. 
About this time Balsamo conceived a violent passion 
for Lorenza FellcianI, the fourteen-year-old daughter 
of a ''smelter of copper " who lived in an alley close to 
the Church of the Trinlta de' Pellegrini — one of the 
poorest quarters of Rome. Marriage followed the 
love-making, and Lorenza, in spite of her tender years, 
in due course became his wife. This event — which is 
one of the few authenticated ones In Balsamo's career — 
took place in "April 1769 in the Church of San 
Salvatore in Campo." 

As the sale of her husband's pen-and-ink sketches, 
which in Lorenza's estimation at least were " superb," 
was not remunerative at the best of times, the young 
couple made their home at first with the bride's parents. 
And now for perhaps the only time in his life a decent 
and comfortable existence was open to Balsamo. He 
had a young and, according to all accounts, a beautiful 
wife, whom he loved and by whom he was loved ; he 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

had a home, and the chance of adopting his father-in- 
law's more lucrative, if less congenial, trade — of settling 
down, in a word, and turning over a new leaf. But 
he was a born blackguard and under the circumstances 
it is not surprising that he should have had the 
7tostalgie de la boue. In other words his Apache 
nature asserted itself, and he had no sooner married 
than he proceeded with revolting cynicism to turn 
his wife's charms to account. 

But Lorenza, being at this stage of her career as 
innocent as she was ignorant, very naturally objected 
to his odious proposal. By dint, however, of persuasion 
and argument he finally succeeded in indoctrinating her 
with his views, to the great indignation of her parents, 
who, scandalized by such conduct, after frequent 
altercations finally turned the couple out of the house. 
Whereupon Lorenza decided to abandon any remain- 
ing scruples she had and assist her husband to the 
best of her ability. 

Among the acquaintances they made in this way 
were two Sicilians of the worst character, Ottavio 
Nicastro, who finished on the gallows, and a self- 
styled Marquis Agliata. The latter being an accom- 
plished forger was not long in discovering a similar 
talent in the husband of Lorenza, by whose charms he 
had been smitten. He accordingly proposed to take 
him into partnership, a proposition which Balsamo 
was ready enough to accept. Nicastro, however, feel- 
ing himself slighted by the close intimacy between the 
two, from which he was excluded, informed the police 
of their doings ; but as he was foolish enough to 
quarrel with them beforehand, they suspected his 
intention, and defeated it by a hurried flight. 

^^ 35 


If Lorenza is to be believed, their intention was to 
go to Germany, and it was perhaps with this end in 
view that Agliata had, as the Inquisition-biographer 
asserts, previously forged the brevet of a Prussian 
colonelcy for Balsamo. At any rate, once out of the 
Papal States they proceeded very leisurely, swindling 
right and left as they went. At Loretto they obtained 
"fifty sequins " from the governor of the town by means 
of a forged letter of introduction from Cardinal Orsini. 
In this way they got as far as Bergamo, where the 
crafty Agliata decided to adopt different tactics. He 
accordingly gave out that he was a recruiting agent of 
the King of Prussia ; but by some chance the suspicions 
of the authorities were aroused, whereupon Agliata, 
having somehow got wind of the fact, without more 
ado decamped, leaving the Balsamos to shift for them- 
selves. Scarcely had he gone when the sbirri arrived 
to arrest him. Not finding him, they seized the 
Balsamos as his accomplices ; they, however, suc- 
ceeded in clearing themselves, and on being released 
were ordered to leave the town. As Agliata had gone 
off with all the money, they were obliged to sell their 
effects to obey this injunction ; and not daring to 
return to Rome, they proceeded to Milan, where they 
arrived almost destitute. 

Beggary was now their only means of existence, but 
even beggary may be profitable providing one knows 
how to beg. According to the Countess de Lamotte, 
who spoke from experience, there was ** only one way of 
asking alms, and that was in a carriage." In fine, ** to 
get on " as a beggar, as in every profession, requires 
ability. It is the kind of ability with which Balsamo 
was abundandy gifted. Aware that the pilgrims he 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

saw wandering about Italy from shrine to shrine 
subsisted on wayside charity, he conceived the ingeni- 
ous expedient of imitating them. As the objective 
of this expiatory vagabondage he selected St. 
James of Compostella, one of the most popular 
shrines at the time in Christendom, and consequently 
one to which a pilgrimage might most easily be 

So setting out from Milan, staff in hand, mumbling 
paternosters, fumbling their beads, begging their way 
from village to village, from presbytery to presbytery, 
and constantly on the alert for any chance of improving 
their condition, the couple took the road to Spain. 
Of this tour along the Riviera to Barcelona, where 
the "pilgrimage" ended, Lorenza, on being arrested 
three years later in Paris, gave an account which the 
Inquisition-biographer has embellished, and which in 
one particular at least has been verified by no less a 
person than Casanova. 

As It happened, this prince of adventurers — who 
in obedience to a time-honoured convention is never 
mentioned In print, by English writers bien entendu, 
without condemnation, though In private conversation 
people wax eloquent enough over him — was himself 
wandering about the South of France at the time. 
Arriving In Aix-en- Provence in 1770, he actually 
stopped In the same Inn as the Balsamos, who excited 
his curiosity by their lavish distribution of alms to 
the poor of the town. Being a man who never missed 
a single opportunity of Improving any acquaintance that 
chance might throw In his way, he called upon the 
couple, and recorded his Impression in those fascina- 
ting Memoirs of his, of which the authenticity Is now 


fully established and, what is more to the point, of 
which all the details have been verified. ^ 

" I found the female pilgrim," he says, ''seated in a 
chair looking like a person exhausted with fatigue, 
and interesting by reason of her youth and beauty, 
singularly heightened by a touch of melancholy and 
by a crucifix of yellow metal six inches long which 
she held in her hand. Her companion, who was 
arranging shells on his coat of black baize, made no 
movement — he appeared to intimate by the looks he 
cast at his wife I was to attend to her alone." 

From the manner in which Lorenza conducted 
herself on this occasion she appears to have had 
remarkable aptitude for acting the role her husband 
had given her. 

" We are going on foot," she said in answer to 
Casanova's questions, " living on charity the better to 
obtain the mercy of God, whom I have so often 
offended. Though I ask only a sou in charity, people 
always give me pieces of silver and gold " — a hint 
Casanova did not take — '*so that arriving at a town 
we have to distribute to the poor all that remains to 
us, in order not to commit the sin of losing confidence 
in the Eternal Providence." 

Whatever doubts Casanova may have had as to 
her veracity, the Inquisition-biographer most certainly 
had none. He declares that the '' silver and gold " of 
which she and her husband were so lavish at Aix was 

^ To infer from this, however, as many writers have done, that 
Casanova's evidence proves Cagliostro and Balsamo to be the 
same is absurd. He never met the Cagliostros in his Hfe. In stating 
that they were the Balsamos whom he had met in 1770 he merely 
repeats what he had read in the papers. His Memoirs were not 
written till many years later. 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

a shameful quid pro quo obtained from some officers at 
Antibes whom she had fascinated. 

Unfortunately there is no Casanova at Antibes to 
verify him or to follow them to London via Barcelona, 
Madrid, and Lisbon. Lorenza is very explicit as to 
where they went on leaving Aix, and as to the time 
they remained in the various places they visited. The 
Inquisition-biographer, faute de vtieux, is obliged to 
confirm her itinerary, but he has his revenge by either 
denying everything else she says, or by putting the 
worst construction upon it. At all events, between 
them one gets the impression that the pilgrims, for 
some reason or other, abandoned their pilgrimage 
before reaching the shrine of St. James of Com- 
postella ; that Lorenza was probably more truthful 
than she meant to be when she says they left Lisbon 
''because the climate was too hot for her " ; and that 
however great the quantity of '' silver and gold " she 
was possessed of at Aix, she and her husband had 
divested themselves of most of it by the time they 
reached London. 

As to the character of their adventures by the way, 
it bears too close a resemblance to those already related 
to be worth describing. 


The Editor of the Courier de I' Europe — which 
journal, as previously stated, was published in London 
— is the authority for the information concerning the 
Balsamos in England. He ferreted out or concocted 
this information fourteen years later ; and, as quite 
apart from his motives, no one of the people he refers 



to as having known the Balsamos in 1772 came forward 
to corroborate what he said or to identify them with 
the CagHostros, it is impossible to verify his evidence. 
From the fact, however, that it was commonly accepted 
at the time, and is still regarded as substantially trust- 
worthy, entirely because Cagliostro absolutely denied any 
knowledge of the Balsamos, the reader may judge at 
once of the bitterness of the prejudice against Cagli- 
ostro as well as of the value to be attached to such 

According to the Courier de I Europe, Balsamo and 
his wife arrived in London from Lisbon in 1771, and 
after living for a while in Leadenhall Street moved 
to New Compton Street, Soho. They were, we are 
told, in extreme poverty, which Lorenza — to whom vice 
had long ceased to be repugnant — endeavoured to 
alleviate by the most despicable expedients. As she 
had but indifferent success, Balsamo, having quarrelled 
with a painter and decorator by name of Pergolezzi, by 
whom he had for a few days been employed, assisted 
her in the infamous role of blackmailer. 

Their most profitable victim appears to have been 
"a Quaker," who, in spite of the rigorous standard of 
morality prescribed by the sect to which he belonged, 
occasionally deigned to make some secret concession 
to the weakness of human nature. Decoyed by 
Lorenza, this individual was discovered by her husband 
in so compromising a situation that nothing short of 
the payment of one hundred pounds could mollify 
Balsamo's feigned indignation and avert the disgrace 
with which he threatened the erring and terrified 
disciple of William Penn. 

Their ill-gotten gains, however, did not last long ; 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

and while Lorenza promenaded the streets in the vain 
quest for others victims, Balsamo was once more 
obliged to have recourse to his artistic talents. But 
Fortune remained hostile, and even went out of her way 
to vent her spite on the couple. For a certain Dr. 
Moses Benamore, described as " the envoy of the King 
of Barbary," was induced to purchase some of Balsamo's 
drawings, payment of which the artist was obliged to 
seek in the courts. The case, however, was decided 
against him, and since, after paying the costs to which 
he was condemned, he was unable to pay his rent, 
his landlord promptly had him arrested for debt. 

To extricate him from this predicament, Lorenza 
adopted tactics which, according to the Inquisition- 
biographer, had proved effective under similar circum- 
stances in Barcelona. Instead of endeavouring to 
excite admiration in the streets, she now sought to stir 
the compassion of the devout. Every day she was to 
be seen on her knees in some church or other, with a 
weather-eye open for some gullible dupe whilst she 
piously mumbled her prayers. In this way she 
managed to attract the attention of the charitable Sir 
Edward Hales, or as she calls him ** Sir Dehels," who 
not only procured Balsamo's release from jail, but on 
the strength of his pen-and-ink sketches employed him 
to decorate the ceilings of some rooms at his country- 
seat near Canterbury — a task for which he had not the 
least qualification. Four months later, after ruining 
his ceilings, '' Sir Dehels " caught his rascally protdgd 
making love to his daughter, whereupon the Balsamos 
deemed it advisable to seek another country to 




Fortune, like Nature, is non-moral. If proof of 
so palpable a fact where required no more suitable 
example could be cited than the good luck that 
came to the Balsamos at the very moment they least 
deserved it. 

Leaving England as poor as when they entered it, 
they found whilst crossing the Channel between Dover 
and Calais, if not exactly a fortune, what was to prove 
no mean equivalent in the person of a certain M. 
Duplessis de la Radotte. This gentleman, formerly 
an official in India, had on its evacuation by the French 
found an equally lucrative post in his native country as 
agent of the Marquis de Prie. Very susceptible to 
beauty, as Lorenza was quick to detect, he no sooner 
beheld her on the deck of the Dover packet than 
he sought her acquaintance. Lorenza, one imagines, 
must have been not only particularly attractive and 
skilled by considerable practice in the art of attraction, 
but a very good sailor ; for in the short space of the 
Channel crossing she so far succeeded in captivating 
Duplessis that on reaching Calais he offered her a seat 
in his carriage to Paris. Needless to say, it was not 
the sort of offer she was likely to refuse ; and while 
her husband trotted behind on horseback she turned 
her opportunity to such account that Duplessis was 
induced to invite both the husband and wife to be his 
guests in Paris. 

But to cut a long story short : as the result of the 
acceptance of this invitation Duplessis after a time 
quarrelled with Balsamo and persuaded Lorenza to 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

leave her husband and live under his '' protection." This 
was not at all to Balsamo's taste, and he appealed to 
the courts for redress. He won his case, and Lorenza, 
according to the law in such matters, was arrested and 
imprisoned in Sainte Pelagie, the most famous — or 
infamous — penitentiary for women in France during 
the eighteenth century. 

This event occurred in 1773, if the dossier dis- 
covered in the French Archives in 1783, which 
contains the statement Lorenza made at the time, is to 
be reofarded as authentic. That none of the numerous 
people referred to in the dossier with whom the 
Balsamos were very closely connected should have 
come forward during the Necklace Affair and identi- 
fied Cagliostro, lays the genuineness of this celebrated 
document open to doubt. Is it likely that all these 
people had died in the fourteen years that elapsed ? If 
not, why did not those who still lived attempt to 
satisfy the boundless curiosity that the mysterious 
Cao^liostro excited '^. He could not have changred out 
of all recognition during this period, for according to 
Goethe, in Palermo those who remembered Balsamo 
discovered, or thought they discovered, a likeness to him 
in the published portraits of Cagliostro. In any case, 
however much Cagliostro's appearance may have 
changed, his wife's most certainly had not. At thirty 
the Countess Cagliostro possessed the freshness of a girl 
of twenty. Had she been Lorenza Balsamo, she would 
have been very quickly recognized. 

But from these doubts which shake one's faith, not 
only in the dossier to which so much importance has 



been attached, but in the Balsamo legend itself, let us 
return to the still more unauthenticated doings of our 

It was not long before Balsamo* repented of his ven- 
geance. On his intercession his wife was released, and 
shortly afterwards, to avoid arrest on his own score, 
the couple disappeared. The Inquisition-biographer 
states vaguely that they went to '* Brussels and 
Germany." But it is not a matter of any importance. 
A few months later, however, Giuseppe Balsamo most 
unquestionably reappeared in his native city, where he 
astonished all his kindred, to whom alone he made 
himself known, by the splendour in which he 

Somewhere in the interval between his flight from 
Paris and his arrival in Palermo he had metamor- 
phosed himself into a Marchese Pellegrini, and by the 
aid of Lorenza picked up a prince. Never before had 
they been so flush. The Marchese Pellegrini had his 
carriage and valet, one '* Laroca/' a Neapolitan barber, 
who afterwards started business on his own account as an 
adventurer. The '' Marchesa " had her prince and his 
purse, and what was to prove of even greater value, 
his influence to draw upon. For a while, indeed, so 
great was his luck, Balsamo even had thoughts of 
settling down and living on the fortune Lorenza had 
plucked from her prince. He actually hired a house 
on the outskirts of Palermo with this intention. But 
he counted without Marano, that ** ninny of a gold- 
smith," from whose vengeance he had fled years 
before. For Marano was still living, and no sooner 
did he become aware that the boy who had made such 
a fool of him in the old treasure-digging business was 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

once more In Palermo than he had him seized and 
clapt into prison. 

The matter, no doubt, must have had very serious 
consequences for the Marchese Pellegrini had it not 
been for the powerful interest of Lorenza's prince. As 
this episode in Balsamo's career is one of the very 
few concerning which the information is authentic, it is 
worth while describing. 

'* The manner of his escape," says Goethe, who was 
told what he relates by eye-witnesses, '* deserves to be 
described. The son of one of the first Sicilian 
princes and great landed proprietors, who had, more- 
over, filled important posts at the Neapolitan Court, 
was a person that united with a strong body and 
ungovernable temper all the tyrannical caprice which 
the rich and great, without cultivation, think them- 
selves entitled to exhibit. 

'' Donna Lorenza had contrived to gain this man, 
and on him the fictitious Marchese Pellegrini founded 
his security. The prince had testified openly that he 
was the protector of this strange pair, and his fury 
may be imagined when Giuseppe Balsamo, at the 
instance of the man he had cheated, was cast into 
prison. He tried various means to deliver him, and 
as these would not prosper, he publicly, in the 
President's ante-chamber, threatened Marano's lawyer 
with the frightfullest misusage if the suit were not 
dropped and Balsamo forthwith set at liberty. As 
the lawyer declined such a proposal he clutched him, 
beat him, threw him on the floor, trampled him with 
his feet, and could hardly be restrained from still 
further outrages, when the President himself came 
running out at the tumult and commanded peace. 



**This latter, a weak, dependent man, made no 
attempt to punish the injurer ; Marano and his 
lawyer grew fainthearted, and Balsamo was let go. 
There was not so much as a registration in the court 
books specifying his dismissal, who occasioned it, or 
how it took place. 

'' The Marchese Pellegrini," Goethe adds, '' quickly 
thereafter left Palermo, and performed various travels, 
whereof I could obtain no clear information." 

Nor apparently could anybody else, for on leaving 
Palermo this time the Balsamos vanished as com- 
pletely as if they had ceased to exist. The Courier de 
[Europe and the Inquisition-biographer, however, were 
not to be dismayed by any such trifling gap in the 
chain of evidence they set themselves to string 
together. Unable to discover the least trace of 
Balsamo, they seized upon two or three other 
swindlers, who may or may not have been the creations 
of their distracted imagination, and boldly labelled 
them Balsamo. 

Lorenza's honest copper-smelting father and 
brother are dragged from Rome to join in the 
swindling operations of herself and husband. The 
brother is whisked off with them to Malta and Spain, 
where he is abandoned as an incubus, apparently 
because he objected to exploit his good looks after the 
manner of his sister. Then, as it is necessary in some 
way to account for Cagliostro's occult powers, Balsamo 
suddenly takes up the study of alchemy, and in the 
moments he snatches from the preparation of " beauty 
salves " and *' longevity pills," picks an occasional 

But the most bare-faced of all these problematic 


Giuseppe Balsamo 

Balsamos is the Don Tiscio one, for whose existence 
*' Dr." Sacchi is responsible. Of Sacchi, be it said, 
nothing is known to his credit. Having some know- 
ledge of surgery, and being in very low water, he 
appealed for assistance to Cagliostro, who found some 
work for him in his private hospital at Strasburg. But 
within a week he was dismissed for misconduct. 
Hereupon Sacchi published a book, or was said to 
have done so — for no one apparently but the Countess 
de Lamotte's counsel in the Necklace Trial ever saw 
it — in which he denounced Cagliostro as a swindler by 
name of Don Tiscio who had adorned the pillory in 
Spain, and suffered other punishments of a kind Sacchi 
preferred not to mention. Notwithstanding, though 
no credence was attached to this statement when cited 
by the Countess de Lamotte, it was raked up again 
by the Courier de l^Europe with the addition that 
Balsamo now becomes Sacchi's Don Tiscio. 

Thus, after having been forger, swindler, black- 
mailer, souteneur, quack, pickpocket — all of the com- 
monest type — Balsamo, on the word of a disreputable 
Sacchi, supported by a few singular coincidences, is 
saved without rhyme or reason from the gallows in 
Cadiz, on which he very probably perished, in order to 
be brought back to London as Count Cagliostro, a 
highly accomplished charlatan and past-master in 
wonder-working. An improbability that even the 
Inquisition-biographer is unable to pass over in 

'* How," he exclaims in amazement, " could such a 
man without either physical or intellectual qualities, 
devoid of education, connections, or even the appear- 
ance of respectability, whose very language was a 



barbarous dialect — how could he have succeeded as 
he did ? " 

How, indeed ! The transformation is obviously 
so improbable that the puzzled reader will very likely 
come to the conclusion that, whoever Cagliostro may 
have been, he could certainly never have been Giuseppe 

But enough of speculation ; let us now turn our 
belated attention to the man whose career under the 
impenetrable incognito of Count Cagliostro is the 
subject of this book. 






Some time in July 1776 — the exact date is 
unascertainable — two foreigners of unmistakable re- 
spectability, to judge by their appearance, if not of 
distinction, arrived in London and engaged a suite of 
furnished apartments in Whitcombe Street, Leicester 
Fields. They called themselves Count and Countess 
Cagliostro ; and their landlady, who lost no time in 
letting everybody in the house, as well as her neigh- 
bours, know she had people of title as lodgers, added 
that she believed they were Italian, though so far as 
she could understand from the Count's very broken 
English they had last come from Portugal. A day or 
two later she was able to inform her gossips, which no 
doubt she did with even greater satisfaction, that her 
foreign lodgers were not only titled but undoubtedly 
rich, for the Countess had very fine jewels and the 
Count was engaged in turning one of the rooms he 
had rented into a laboratory, as he intended to devote 
himself to the study of physics and chemistry, subjects, 
it seemed, in which he was keenly interested. 

Their first visitor was a Madame Blevary, a lady 
in reduced circumstances who lodged in the same 
E 49 


house. Hearing they had come from Portugal, and 
being herself a native of that country, she sought their 
acquaintance in the hope of deriving some personal 
benefit from it. In this she was not disappointed ; 
for the Countess, who knew no English, required a 
companion, and as Madame Blevary was conversant 
with several languages and had the manners of a 
gentlewoman, she readily obtained the post on the 
recommendation of the landlady. 

Among the acquaintances Madame Blevary in- 
formed of her good fortune, which she was no doubt 
induced to dilate upon, was a certain Vitellini, an 
ex-Jesuit and professor of languages. Like her, he 
too had fallen on hard times ; but in his case the love 
of gambling had been his ruin. He was also, as it 
happened, almost equally devoted to the study of 
chemistry, on a knowledge of which he particularly 
piqued himself. No sooner, therefore, did he learn 
that Count Cagliostro had a similar hobby, and a 
laboratory into the bargain, than he persuaded Madame 
Blevary to introduce him to the Count, in the hope 
that he too might profit by the acquaintance as she 
had done. As a result of this introduction, Vitellini 
succeeded in ingratiating himself into the favour of 
Cagliostro, who employed him in the laboratory as an 

Stinginess was a quality of which neither the 
Count nor his wife was ever accused. On the 
contrary, as even those most prejudiced against them 
have been obliged to admit, they were exceedingly 
generous. With them, however, generosity was one 
of those amiable weaknesses that are as pernicious in 
their effect as a vice. There were few who experienced 




Cagliostro in London 

it but abused it in some way. It was so in this 

Vitellini, who was at bottom more of a fool than a 
knave, in the first flush of excitement over the sudden 
turn of tide in his fortunes which had long been at the 
lowest ebb, began to brag to his acquaintances in the 
gambling-dens and coffee-houses he frequented of his 
connection with Cagliostro, whom he described as ''an 
extraordinary man, a true adept, whose fortune was 
immense, and who possessed the secret of transmuting 

Such praise naturally excited the curiosity of 
Vitellini's acquaintances, who in their turn were eager 
to meet the benevolent foreigner. Thus by the in- 
discretion of Vitellini, Cagliostro was soon besieged 
by a crowd of shady people whose intentions were 
so apparent that he was obliged in the end to refuse 
to receive them when they called. But this only 
exasperated them ; and one in particular, Pergolezzi — 
the painter and decorator by whom the reader will 
recall Balsamo was for a time employed — "threatened 
to blast the reputation of the Count by circulating a 
report throughout London that he was ignorant and 
necessitous, of obscure birth, and had once before 
resided in England."^ 

Vitellini, needless to say, perceiving the effect of 

1 Cagliostro, however, ignored this threat, which one can scarcely 
believe he would have done had he had any reason to fear it. Nor 
did Pergolezzi put it into effect ; and it was not till ten years later, 
when Cagliostro returned to London thoroughly discredited, that the 
Editor of the Courier de V Europe got wind of it in some way and 
twisted it into his Balsamo theory of accounting for the mysterious 
Cagliostro. Whether Pergolezzi was living at the time is unknown ; 
in any case the threat which Cagliostro now ignored contained 710 
mention of Balsamo. 

K2 51 


his folly, now hastened to put a curb on his tongue lest 
he too should be shown the door. But as the sequel 
will prove, discretion came to him" too late to benefit 
him. For Madame Blevary, who also entertained in 
secret a similar opinion of her patron's wealth and 
knowledge, was one of those whose cupidity had been 
excited by Vitellini's gossip. She at least had the 
advantage of being on the inner side of the Count's 
door, and she determined while she had the chance 
to profit by it. 

To this effect she bethought herself of **one Scott, 
a man of ambiguous character, and the pliability of 
whose principles was such that he was ever ready to 
convert them to the interest of the present moment." 
It was accordingly arranged between them that Scott 
should impersonate a Scotch nobleman, in which guise 
it was hoped the Cagliostros would be effectually 
deceived as to his intentions. A severe illness, how- 
ever, with which she was suddenly seized, and during 
which the Cagliostros " supplied her with every 
necessary comfort," prevented Madame Blevary from 
personally introducing her confederate. Nevertheless 
she did not abandon the idea she had conceived, and 
ill though she was, she sent word to Cagliostro that 
•* Lord Scott, of whom she had often spoken to him, 
had arrived in town and proposed to himself the 
honour of introduction that afternoon." 

Entirely unsuspicious of the treachery of a woman 
who owed so much to their generosity, the Count and 
Countess received " Lord Scott " on his arrival. His 
appearance, it seems, did not exactly tally with such 
notions as Cagliostro had formed either of the man or 
his rank. But Scott succeeded in dispelling his dis- 


Cagliostro in London 

appointment, and swindling him into the bargain, by- 
way of gentle beginning, out of ^12 in Portuguese 
money which he undertook to get exchanged for its 
English equivalent, afterwards declaring with well- 
feigned mortification *' he had lost it through a hole 
in his pocket." 

A Giuseppe Balsamo, one imagines, would have 
been the last person in the world to be taken in by such 
a story. Cagliostro, however, swallowed it without 
hesitation; and begging Scott, who confusedly regretted 
he was in no position to make good the loss, to think no 
more about it, invited him to come todinner the next day. 

Whether Madame Blevary got a share of these or 
subsequent spoils is not known, for at this point she 
disappears from the scene altogether. Perhaps she 
died of that severe illness in which she received from 
the Cagliostros while betraying them so many '' proofs 
of their generosity and humanity." In any case, her 
place was most completely filled by *' Lady Scott," who 
was at this period presented by Scott to the Cagliostros, 
and from whom in an incredibly short time she 
managed to borrow on her simple note of hand ;^200. 


Owing to the prejudice against Cagliostro, a con- 
struction wholly unfavourable to him has been placed 
upon the extraordinary series of events that now ensued. 
This construction, however, cannot be allowed to pass 
unchallenged. For it is based solely on the accusations 
of the Editor of the Courier de r Europe, who was the 
bitter enemy of Cagliostro. Now though it may be 



the custom in France for the accused to be considered 
guilty till he proves his innocence, the contrary is the 
custom in England, where fortunately it requires 
something more than the mere word of a single and 
professedly hostile witness to condemn a man. The 
Editor of the Courier de r Europe declared that 
"upwards of twenty persons" would confirm his 
statements. None, however, offered to do so. Under 
such circumstances, as we are reduced to dealing with 
prejudices, I shall in this particular instance confess 
to one in favour of an ancient English principle of 
justice, and give Cagliostro the benefit of the doubt. 
His word at least is as much entitled to respect as that 
of the Editor of the Courier de r Europe, There is, 
moreover, much in his spirited defence even worthy of 

Having found him so easy to dupe, the crew by 
whom he was surrounded naturally devoted their 
attention to increasing the friendship they had formed 
with him and his wife. Not a day passed but " Lord " 
Scott and his lady paid the Count and Countess a visit, 
and as it was their habit to drop in just before dinner 
or supper they soon managed to obtain their meals at 
the expense of the hospitable foreigners. 

On one of these occasions the conversation having 
turned on a lottery in which his guests were interested, 
Cagliostro was reminded of" a manuscript he had found 
in the course of his travels which contained many 
curious cabalistic operations by aid of which the author 
set forth the possibilities of calculating winning 
numbers." But since the matter was not one in which 
he had hitherto taken any particular interest, he was 


Cagliostro in London 

unwilling to express an opinion as to the value of these 
calculations, '' having long contracted the habit of 
suspending his judgment on subjects he had not 
investigated." On being urged, however, he con- 
sented to consult the manuscript ; whereupon, to test 
its system, Scott " risked a trifle " and won upwards of a 
hundred pounds. 

But whatever opinion Cagliostro may now have 
formed as to the value to be attached to these '' cabal- 
istic operations," he refused to put them to further test. 
Gambling would appear to have had no attraction for 
him. Not only, if we are to believe him, did he risk 
nothing himself, or benefit in any way by the winning 
numbers he predicted on this occasion, but never after- 
wards is there to be found any allusion to gambling 
in the records that relate to his career. His aversion, 
however, which others — notably Mirabeau — have also 
shared, is not necessarily to be regarded as a virtue. 
There are many who, without objecting to gambling 
on moral grounds, are unable to find any pleasure 
in it. 

Apart from all other considerations, Cagliostro 
had a strong personal motive for his refusal to 
make a business of predicting winning numbers 
for Scott. He was too completely absorbed in his 
alchemical experiments to find an interest in any- 
thing else. Of what value was the most perfect 
betting system in the world compared with the secret 
of transmuting metals, making diamonds, and pro- 
longing life ? To the man who is wrapped up in such 
things, lotteries and the means of winning them are 
beneath contempt. He has not only got something 
more profitable to do than waste his time in calculating 



lucky numbers, but he is on a plane above the ordinary 

This, however, was a distinction that Scott, who 
was merely a vulgar sharper, was incapable of either 
making himself or appreciating when made. After 
his success in testing the system he believed it to be 
infallible. To be refused so simple a means of making 
a fortune was intolerable. In his exasperation he 
dropped the role of Scotch nobleman altogether and 
appeared in his real character as the common rogue he 
was, whereupon Cagliostro promptly showed him the 
door and refused to have any further intercourse with him. 

** Lady " Scott, however, a few days later forced 
herself upon the Countess, and endeavoured to excite 
her compassion with the relation of a pitiful story, in 
which she declared that Scott, by whom she had been 
betrayed, had decamped with the profit arising from 
the lottery, leaving her and three children entirely 
destitute. The Countess, touched by this imaginary 
tale, generously interceded in her behalf with the 
Count, who sent her " a guinea and a number for the 
following day." Miss Fry, to give her her real name, 
no sooner obtained this number than she and Scott 
risked every penny they could raise upon it. Fortune 
once more favoured them and they won on this 
occasion the sum of fifteen hundred guineas. 

In the first moment of exultation Miss Fry at once 
rushed off to the Cagliostros with the whole of her 
winnings, which she offered to the Count as a token 
of her gratitude and confidence in him. But Cagliostro 
was not to be caught in this cunningly laid snare. He 
received her very coldly and refused to concern himself 
in her affairs. 


Cagliostro in London 

*' If you will take my advice," he said, *' you will go 
into the country with your three children and live on 
the interest of your money. If I have obliged you, the 
only return I desire is that you will never more re-enter 
my doors." 

But Miss Fry was not to be got rid of in this 
fashion. Dazzled by the golden shower the Count's 
predictions had caused to rain upon her, she sighed 
for more numbers, and to obtain them she had re- 
course to Vitellini, in the hope that as he was still 
employed by the Count he might succeed in getting 
them for her. So eager was she to procure them that 
she gave Vitellini twenty guineas in advance as an 
earnest of her sincerity and to increase his zeal in the 

But though Vitellini was, needless to say, only too 
eager to oblige her, Cagliostro was not to be persuaded 
to gratify him. Hereupon, Miss Fry, repenting of her 
liberality, made a debt of her gift, and had Vitellini, 
who was unable to repay her, imprisoned. Cagliostro, 
however, generously came to the rescue, and obtained 
his release. This action awoke a belated sense of 
gratitude in the fellow, which he afterwards ineffectually 
attempted to prove. 

But to return to Miss Fry. Having failed to turn 
Vitellini to account, she determined to approach the 
Countess and lay her, if possible, under an obligation. 
After considering various schemes by which this was 
to be effected, she " purchased of a pawnbroker a 
diamond necklace for which she paid ;^94." She then 
procured a box with two compartments, in one of 
which she placed the necklace, and in the other some 
snuff of a rare quality that she knew the Countess 



liked, and watching for an opportunity of finding her 
alone, managed to get access to her. 

In the hands of a Miss Fry, the Countess, who was 
the most amiable, pliable, and insignificant of creatures, 
was like wax. Cleverly turning the conversation so as 
to suit her purpose, Miss Fry casually produced the 
box and opening the compartment containing the snuff 
prevailed upon the Countess to take a pinch. After 
this it was an easy matter to persuade her to keep the 
box. Two days later the Countess discovered the 
necklace. As she had been forbidden to receive any 
presents from Miss Fry, she at once reported the 
matter to her husband. He was for returning the 
necklace at once, but as the Countess, who doubtless 
had no desire to part with it, suggested that to do so 
after having had it so long in her possession would 
appear ''indelicate," Cagliostro fooHshly consented to 
let her keep it. As to retain the gift without acknow- 
ledging it would have been still more indelicate, Miss 
Fry was accordingly once more permitted to resume 
her visits. 

Fully alive to the fact that she was only received 
on sufferance, she was naturally very careful not to 
jeopardize the position she had recovered with so 
much difficulty by any indiscretion. She by no means, 
however, lost sight of the object she had in view. 
Hearing that the Cagliostros were moving to Suffolk 
Street, she hired a room in the same house where 
it was impossible to avoid her. As she had told 
Cagliostro that she intended to follow his advice and 
live in the country with her three children — a fiction 
to which she still adhered— he naturally inquired the 
reason of her continued residence in London. She 


Cagliostro in London 

gave a lack of the necessary funds as her excuse, and 
hinted, as he had broached the subject, that he should 
'* extricate her from her embarrassment by giving her 
numbers for the French lottery." 

The Count ignored the hint. But in consideration 
of the necklace she had given the Countess, and with 
the hope of being entirely rid of her, he gave her ^50 
to defray the expense of her journey into the country. 
This was, however, not at all to Miss Fry's taste. She 
wanted numbers for the French lottery, and meant to 
have them too, or know the reason why, as the saying 
is. Accordingly, the next day she trumped up some 
fresh story of debts and absconding creditors, and, 
appealing to the compassion of the Countess, implored 
her to intercede with the Count to give her the 
numbers she wanted. 

Cagliostro was now thoroughly annoyed. To 
setde the matter once for all, he told her that ''he 
believed the success of the system was due more to 
chance than to calculation ; but whether it was effected 
by the one or the other he was resolved to have no 
further concern in anything of that nature." The 
manner in which these words were uttered was too 
emphatic to permit Miss Fry to continue to cherish 
the least hope of ever being able to induce Cagliostro 
to change his mind. Still, even now she refused to 
accept defeat. The numbers had become to her like 
morphia to a 7norphineuse ; and precisely as the latter 
to obtain the drug she craves will resort to the most 
desperate stratagems, so Miss Fry determined to 
execute a scheme she had long premeditated by 
which Cagliostro was to be coinpelled to give her the 




This scheme, described by an ardent defender of 
Cagliostro against the violent denunciations of the 
Editor of the Courier de T Europe as *' the most diabolic 
that ever entered into the heart of ingratitude," was 
nothing more nor less than a sort of muscular black- 
mail. Taking advantage of his ignorance of English, 
Cagliostro was to be arrested on a false charge and 
simultaneously robbed of the precious manuscript by 
which he predicted the numbers. 

To assist in the execution of her plan Miss Fry, 
who was the life and soul of the conspiracy, had the 
help of a barrister named Reynolds, '* who, notwith- 
standing his expertness in the pettifogging finesse of the 
low law, could not preserve himself from an ignominious 
exhibition in the pillory "; a rough known as Broad ; 
and, of course, Scott. 

When everything was arranged. Miss Fry brought 

an action against Cagliostro to recover £\^o, the writ 

for which was served by Reynolds, apparently by 

bribing the sheriff's officer. Thus armed, he proceeded 

to Cagliostro s house accompanied by the others, and 

while he explained to the amazed Count, who had 

never seen him before, the object of his visit and the 

authority for what he did, Scott and Broad broke into 

the laboratory, where they found and took possession 

of the manuscript and the note-of-hand for the two 

hundred pounds the Count had lent Miss Fry, who 

during these highly criminal proceedings had the 

shrewdness to " wait on the stairs " without. Reynolds 

then conducted Cagliostro to a sponging-house, from 


Cagliostro in London 

which he was released the following day by depositing 
with Saunders, the sheriff's officer, "jewels worth three or 
four hundred pounds." 

The conspirators, however, baffled by the release 
of Cagliostro, from whom they had obtained nothing 
but the note-of-hand and the manuscript, of which they 
could make neither head nor tail, at once renewed 
their persecution. This time they procured a warrant 
for the arrest of both himself and his wife on the 
charge of practising witchcraft. The fact that it was 
possible to obtain a warrant on so ridiculous a charge, 
which both those who made it, as well as the official 
by whom the warrant was granted, were perfectly aware 
would be dismissed with contempt the moment it was 
investigated, explains how easy it was, under the 
corrupt and chaotic state of the legal system of the 
period, to convert the protection of the law into a 
persecution. Indeed, unauthenticated though they 
are, none of the legal proceedings in which Cagliostro 
was now involved are improbable. On the contrary 
their probability is so great as almost to guarantee 
their credibility. 

By a bribe — for it can scarcely be termed bail — 
Cagliostro and his wife escaped the inconvenience of 
being taken to jail before the investigation of the 
charge on which they were apprehended. Seeing 
that their victim was not to be terrified, his perse- 
cutors tried other tactics. Reynolds was deputed 
to persuade him. If possible, to explain the system 
by which he predicted the winning numbers. 
But Cagliostro indignantly refused to gratify him 
when he called, whereupon Scott, who had remained 
without the door, his ear glued to the key-hole, 



perceiving that the eloquence of Reynolds failed to 
produce the desired effect, suddenly burst into the room, 
and " presenting a pistol to the breast of the Count, 
threatened to discharge it that instant unless he consented 
to reveal the secrets they demanded." 

This species of bluff, however, was equally futile. 
Cagliostro regarded the bully and his pistol with 
contemptuous composure — particularly as he did not 
discharge it. He assured him that nothing was to be 
accomplished by solicitations or threats, but as he desired 
to be left in peace he was ready '' to think no more of 
the note-of-hand they had robbed him of, and would 
even let them have the effects he had deposited 
with Saunders, the sheriffs officer, on condition the 
proceedings against him were dropped and the 
manuscript returned." 

Seeing there was no better alternative, Reynolds 
and Scott decided to accept the proposition, and 
immediately went with Cagliostro to Saunders' house 
to settle the matter. But Saunders, realizing that 
Cagliostro's troubles were due to his gullibility, ignor- 
ance of English, and apparent fortune, was tempted to 
reserve the plucking of so fat a bird for himself. He 
accordingly advised the Count not to compromise 
the matter, but to bring in his turn an action for 
robbery against the crew of sharpers into whose power 
he had fallen. Cagliostro was easily induced to accept 
this advice, and with the aid of Saunders procured 
four warrants for the arrest of Scott, Reynolds, Broad, 
and Miss Fry. The last, however, aware that the 
charge against her could not be substantiated, as 
she had not personally been present at the time of 
the robbery, made no attempt to escape, and was 


Cagliostro in London 

taken into custody — from which, as she had fore- 
seen, she soon freed herself. As for the other three, 
perceiving that the game was up, they took time by 
the forelock and disappeared while they had the chance. 

But Cagliostro had yet to realize what a vindictive 
fury he had to deal with in Miss Fry. The two 
actions she had instituted against him had not been 
quashed, as she took care daily to let him know in 
ways studiously calculated to render the reminder 
particularly harassing. Saunders, with whom he had 
now become intimate, was *'much concerned at this 
persecution, and repeatedly advised him to take an 
apartment in his house." 

Now little as Cagliostro was acquainted with English 
customs, he was not so ignorant, as he himself confesses, 
as not to understand that such a proposition was 
" singular " ; but as Saunders had been kind to him, 
*' kept his carriage," and appeared in every way worthy 
of respect, the Count, being desirous of purchasing 
tranquillity, without hesitation accepted the invitation. 

Because no Englishman would have done so, and 
it appears absurd to picture even a foreigner passing 
six weeks of his own accord in a sponging-house, the 
visit Cagliostro now paid to Saunders is generally 
regarded as anything but voluntary. But how much 
more absurd is the assertion of the Editor of the 
Courier de H Europe — the only other source of informa- 
tion beside Cagliostro in regard to these proceedings — 
that the Count was '' constrained from poverty " to 
reside with Saunders! Even if foreigners in distress 
would be likely to seek refuge in a sponging-house, 
is it at all likely that they would be admitted just 
because of \ki^\x poverty ? 



** I occupied," says Cagliostro, '' the finest apartment 
in the house. There was always a seat at my table for 
a chance comer. I defrayed the expenses of the poor 
prisoners confined there, and even paid the debts of 
some, who thus obtained their freedom." Of these, 
one ** Shannon, a chemist," is quoted by him as being 
ready to testify to the truth of the statement. Be this 
as it may, after six weeks Cagliostro once more returned 
to his rooms in Suffolk Street to the " sensible regret 
of Saunders." 

But scarcely had he arrived when he was served 
for the third time with a writ issued at the instigation 
of Miss Fry for "a debt of ;^200." At the instance of 
Saunders, an Italian merchant named Badioli was 
induced to be his surety. Saunders, wl^ose interest 
in his affairs was inspired by the profit he calculated on 
deriving from them, also recommended him to engage 
as counsel to defend him a certain Priddle whom 
Cagliostro had met in the sponging-house. Thus 
supported, and conscious of innocence, he awaited his 
trial with comparative composure. 

The case came on in due course at the King's 
Bench, but Priddle, discovering that it was to be tried 
by Lord^^Mansfield, whom he dared not face, backed 
out of it altogether. Left without counsel at the last 
moment, Cagliostro was driven in desperation to defend 
his cause himself. As his knowledge of English was 
very imperfect, he was obliged to have an interpreter, 
and, none other apparently being available, he employed 
Vitellini. But as Vitellini, either owing to excitement 
caused by the responsibility he was suddenly called 
upon to assume, or to an equally imperfect knowledge 
of English, could not make himself understood, Lord 


Cagliostro in London 

Mansfield, to avoid further confusion, and perceiving 
from the charge of witchcraft that the case was trivial, 
suggested a compromise and recommended a Mr. 
Howarth as arbitrator. To this proposal Cagliostro 
was compelled, and Miss Fry was only too glad, to 

The first thing Howarth had to decide was Miss 
Fry's first claim to ^190, which she alleged she had 
lent the Count. As she had no proof whatever 
to advance in support of her claim, it was at once 
set aside. The charge of witchcraft was also with 
similar expedition dismissed as "frivolous." 

In her attempt to substantiate her other claim to 
;^200, Miss Fry and her witness Broad very nearly 
perjured themselves. They both asserted that the 
money had been expended " in purchasing sequins " 
for Cagliostro. Questioned by Howarth as to how 
he had obtained the sequins, Broad replied that he 
had "bought them of a merchant whose name he 
could not recollect." At this Howarth, whose 
suspicions were naturally aroused by such a reply, 
observed that " it must have been a very large amount 
of sequins to represent ;^2oo, and he did not believe 
any merchant would have such a quantity on hand." 
Broad hereupon declared he had not bought them 
of one merchant, " but of about fourscore ^ But on 
being pressed by Howarth he could not remember 
the names or places of abode of any of them. 

Nor could Miss Fry assist him to disentangle 
himself. She stated that *' a Jew of whose name she 
was ignorant had brought the sequins to her." After 
this there was nothing for Howarth to do but dismiss 
the charge, which he did with " a severe reprimand." 

F 65 


Miss Fry, however, was not to be beaten without a 
further effort. She demanded that the necklace should 
be returned to her, which she declared she had only 
lent to the Countess. To this Cagliostro saw fit to 
protest, but as Vitellini failed to express his reasons 
intelligibly, Howarth came to the conclusion that the 
necklace at least belonged to Miss Fry. He therefore 
ordered the Count to return it to her, and pay the costs 
of the arbitration into the bargain. 

This decision, however, by no means put an end to 
the troubles of Cagliostro. 

Whether at his own request, or by order of Howarth, 
he seems to have been given a few days in which to 
conform to the ruling of the arbitrator. But Badioli, 
his surety, no sooner learnt the result of the case than, 
dreading lest Cagliostro should decamp and leave him 
to pay the costs and compensate Miss Fry, he resolved 
to release himself from his obligations by surrendering 
the Count. Keeping his intention a profound secret, 
he paid a friendly visit to Cagliostro, and at the close 
carried him off for a drive in the park. '' On their way," 
says an anonymous author of the only contemporary 
book in defence of Cagliostro, ''they alighted at 
a judge's chambers, where Mr. Badioli said he had 
business to settle. They then again entered the coach, 
which in a short time stopped before an edifice of 
which the Count was ignorant. However, his com- 
panion entering, he followed his example ; when Mr. 
Badioli, making a slight apology, desired him to wait 
there a few minutes, saying which he left him. 

" Minutes and hours elapsed, but no Mr. Badioli 
appeared. The Count then endeavoured to return 
through the door at which they had entered, but found 


Cagliostro in London 

himself repulsed, though he was ignorant of the 
cause. He remained till evening in the greatest 
agitation of mind, roving from place to place, when 
he attracted the observation of a foreigner, who 
having heard his story, and made the necessary 
inquiries, informed him that he was a prisoner in 
the King's Bench. 

*' Two days had elapsed before the Countess was 
able to obtain any information concerning him." 


The conduct of Badioli, who had taken so 
treacherous an advantage of his ignorance of the 
English language and law, was to Cagliostro the 
unkindest cut of all. After such convincing proofs 
of its hostility, to continue to struggle against 
adversity seemed no doubt futile. He accepted the 
situation apathetically. More than a month elapsed 
before he apparently took steps to procure his release — 
even then the proceedings which resulted in his 
liberation from the King's Bench prison do not 
appear to have been instituted by himself, but by a 
certain O'Reilly. Now as this good Samaritan was 
previously unknown to him, there is reason to suppose 
that he was delegated by the Esperance Lodge of 
Freemasons, of which the Count was a member, to 
assist him. For O'Reilly was the proprietor of the 
" King's Head in Gerard Street where the Esperance 
Lodge assembled."^ 

^ Were all the suppositions on which the general opinion of 
Cagliostro is based as reasonable as the present, there would be no 
cause for complaint on that score. 

F 2 67 


Through the instrumentality of O'Reilly, for whose 
kindness on this occasion Cagliostro was ever after 
grateful, fresh bail was procured. But as the summer 
vacation had commenced. Miss Fry had the right — 
which she was only too glad to avail herself of — to 
refuse to accept the bail offered till the end of the 
vacation. O'Reilly, however, was not a Saunders ; 
his interest in the Count was not mercenary, and 
being fully conversant with the intricate workings 
of the law, he applied directly to Lord Mansfield, 
who at once ordered Miss Fry's attorney to accept 
the bail. 

Considering the evidences Cagliostro had had of 
this woman's fury, it was not surprising that he should 
have attributed the extraordinary circumstances that 
now occurred to her vindictive ingenuity. As he was 
preparing to leave the King's Bench, *' Mr. Crisp, the 
under-marshal of the prison, informed him that one 
Aylett had lodged a detainer against him by name of 
Melisa Cagliostro, otherwise Joseph Balsamo, for a 
debt of ;^30." The Count demanded with the 
utmost surprise the meaning of this new intrigue. 
Crisp replied that Aylett declared the sum specified 
was due to him as his fee, with interest added, 
from " one Joseph Balsamo, by whom he had been 
employed in the year 1772 to recover a debt of a 
Dr. Benamore." 

It mattered not in the least that Cagliostro 
protested "he had never seen Aylett, and did not 
believe Aylett had ever seen him," or that Aylett 
himself did not appear in person. As the law then 
stood. Crisp's statement was sufficient to detain the 
unfortunate Count, whom he in his turn was anxious 


Cagliostro in London 

to bleed while he had the chance. Accordingly, 
while admitting that without Aylett's consent he 
was not empowered to accept the bail which Cagli- 
ostro eagerly offered him, Crisp was only ready to 
let him go ''if he could deposit in his hand thirty 
pounds to indemnify him." 

To this proposition Cagliostro consented, but as 
he had not the cash upon him he asked Crisp if he 
would accept its equivalent In plate, promising to 
redeem it the next day. His request was granted, 
and Cagliostro remained in King's Bench while 
O'Reilly went to the Countess for the plate in 
question, which consisted of " two soup-ladles, two 
candlesticks, two salt-cellars, two pepper-castors, six 
forks, six table-spoons, nine knife-handles with blades, 
a pair of snuffers and stand, all of silver." 

The next day, true to his promise, the Count paid 
Crisp thirty pounds. Crisp, however, instead of 
giving back the plate, declared that Aylett had been 
to him in the meantime, and on learning that he 
had freed the prisoner was highly exasperated and 
demanded the plate, which had consequently been 
given him. As Aylett, on the other hand, when 
questioned, declared that Crisp ''was a liar," " it was 
impossible," says Cagliostro, " for me to ascertain by 
whom I was plundered." 

Of all the incidents in this series of " injustices," 
as he termed it, of which he was the victim the most 
curious is undoubtedly the unexpected advent of 
Aylett upon the scene in a role totally unconnected 
with the development, so to speak, of the plot of 
the play. Considering that he w^as the first person 
on record to state that Cagliostro was Giuseppe 



Balsamo, it is worth while inquiring into his reason 
for doing so and the value to be attached to it. 

Aylett's reputation, to begin with, was such as 
to render the truth of any statement he might make 
extremely doubtful, if not to invalidate it altogether. 
Like Reynolds and Priddle, he was a rascally attorney 
who had been ''convicted of perjury and exposed 
in the pillory." Granting that he had defended 
Balsamo in his action against Dr. Benamore, and 
was sufficiently struck by the resemblance of 
Cagliostro to his old client as to believe them to 
be the same person, his conduct on the present 
occasion was decidedly ambiguous. According to his 
statement, "happening one day in 1777 to be in 
Westminster Hall, he perceived a person that he 
immediately recognized as Balsamo, whom he had 
not seen since 1772." Instead of accosting him then 
and there, he decided to find out where he lived ; and 
after much difficulty learnt that the person he had seen 
and believed to be Balsamo was in the King's Bench 
prison and that his name was Cagliostro ; whereupon, 
without taking the least step to ascertain whether he 
was right or not in his surmise, he laid a detainer 
against him for the money Balsamo owed him. No 
record of any kind exists as to what passed between 
Aylett and Cagliostro when they finally met, or in fact 
whether they met at all. 

That Aylett would, after having received 
Cagliostro s plate or money from Crisp, have admitted 
he had made a mistake is, judging from the man's 
character, not to be credited. But what renders this 
singular matter still more questionable is the fact that 
the Editor of the Courier de r Europe nine years later, 


Cagliostro in London 

when publishing his "incontestable proofs" of the 
identity of Balsamo with Cagliostro, should have 
accepted the statement of Aylett and ignored 
that of Dr. Benamore, who was also living at the 
time and whose position as representative in England 
for thirty years of the various Barbary States would, 
to say the least, have given the weight of respect- 
ability to his word. Now as there is no doubt at all 
that the Editor of the Courier de r Europe passionately 
desired that his proofs should really be '* incontest- 
able," there is only one explanation of his conduct 
in this matter possible : Dr. Benamore must have 
refused to make the statement requested of him. 

On the other hand, Cagliostro — and his word, even 
prejudice must admit, is to be trusted quite as much 
as that of an Aylett or the Editor of the Courier de 
r Europe — asserts in the most emphatic language that 
Dr. Benamore was ready to testify in his behalf to a 
total ignorance of the very name of Balsamo. 

As it is impossible to verify either one or the other 
of these statements, the reader must be left to form 
his own conclusions. 

Having once more regained his liberty, Cagliostro 
very wisely sought safety from further molestation by 
taking up his abode with his wife '' in O'Reilly's 
hotel," where he resided during the remainder of his 
stay in London. On the recommendation of his friend 
he employed a lawyer by the name of James, through 
whom he succeeded in recovering the jewels which, it 
will be remembered, he had deposited with Saunders 
as bail in the first suit brought against him by Miss 
Fry. As he could, no doubt, have managed to decamp 
without returning the necklace or paying the costs of 



his trial as ordered by the arbitrator — the date named 
for the settlement was still some weeks off— it is, 
under the circumstances and considering all that has 
been said against him, decidedly to his credit that he 
remained and fulfilled his obligations. 

He states — and there is no reason to disbelieve 
him — that O'Reilly and James, after the final settle- 
ment of his case, tried hard to persuade him '' to 
commence an action against Aylett for perjury, 
another against Crisp for swindling, and one of black- 
mail against Fry, Scott, Reynolds and Broad." He 
was, however, not to be beguiled into any such costly 
and uncertain undertakings. 

" The injustices," he says, ** I had experienced 
rendered me unjust to myself, and attributing to the 
whole nation the faults of a few individuals I deter- 
mined to leave a place in which I had found neither 
laws, justice, nor hospitality." 

Accordingly, having given O'Reilly, with whom 
he continued in close communication, a power of 
attorney to use in case of need, he left for Brussels 
"with no more than fifty pounds in cash and some 

He afterwards asserted that during the eighteen 
months he had resided in London he had been 
defrauded of 3000 guineas. 

In this a hostile writer — with sheep-like fidelity to 
popular prejudice — sees ** the native excellence of 
English talent, when the most accomplished swindler 
of the swindling eighteenth century was so hobbled, 
duped, and despoiled by the aid of the masterly fictions 
of English law." 

It is possible, however, to draw another and more 


Cagliostro in London 

sensible inference from this legal escroquerie of which 
Cagliostro was the dupe, than one based on mere 
prejudice. As his fame, needless to say, lies not in 
proved charges of embezzlement, but in the secrets of 
the crucible and the mysteries of Egyptian Masonry, 
it is clearly by his adventures in the laboratory and 
the lodge rather than by those which led him to the 
King's Bench and the Bastille that he is to be judged. 
Since it is a question of swindling, it is perhaps just as 
well to bear in mind the character of these accomplished 
impostures to which so much obloquy has been 
attached. Accordingly, before attempting to draw 
aside the figurative curtain which conceals him, as 
Carlyle's '' hand itched " to do, it is essential to examine 
the fabric, so to speak, of the curtain itself — in other 
words, to get some idea of what was understood by 
the Occult in Cagliostro's day. 

As I have no intention of entering this labyrinth of 
perpetual darkness which none but an adept is capable 
of treading, I shall merely stand on the threshold. 
There, at any rate, it is light enough for the reader to 
see as much as is necessary for the present purpose. 





Man, at once instinctively mistrusting his own 
power, and inspired by the love of the marvellous 
which is inherent in human nature, has from the 
beginning invoked, or invented, as you will, the 
invisible powers of an inaccessible sphere. History 
is filled with the phenomena arising from this innate 
tendency to believe in the supernatural, which while 
varying in form according to epochs, places, and 
customs are at bottom identical. Belief in the super- 
natural is, indeed, the basic principle of primitive 
man's first conception of community of interest, the 
germ from which religion, social order, civilization 
have developed. 

In the beginning religion and magic were one. 
All the priests of Egypt and the East were invested 
with supernatural and mysterious powers of which 
they long possessed the monopoly. These powers 
were precisely the same as those of the mediums of 
the present day ; but the effects they produced no 
doubt appeared infinitely greater owing to the bound- 
less credulity, simplicity, and ignorance of those who 
witnessed them. 

By degrees, as civilization after civilization perished, 
knowledge became more diffused. Magic passed from 
the sanctuary to the street. The Pagan world was 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

filled with astrologers, sorcerers, sibyls, sooth-sayers, 
wonder-workers of all descriptions. In the Middle 
Ages, when Christianity finally superseded Paganism, 
the supernatural once more took up its abode in 
religion. Demonology, which had survived all the 
revolutions of antiquity, and which still exists without 
much fundamental difference under other forms all 
over the world, assimilated itself to the dogmas of the 
Church. The Popes affirmed the popular belief in 
sorcery, magic and diabolic possession. But the 
supernatural phenomena associated with the belief in 
these things were regarded as the work of the devil, 
in whose existence the Christian world believed as 
implicitly as in the existence of God ; so while the 
Church sanctioned this belief as one of the mysteries 
of religion it waged a merciless war againt all persons 
suspected of having commerce with demons. From 
its terrible ban the mystical visionaries alone were 
exempt. These persons, ascetics all, the sanctity 
of whose reputations was unquestioned and whose 
hallucinations were due to hysteria, epilepsy, or 
neuroticism, were canonized. 

Towards the close of the seventeenth century, with 
the revival of a tolerant and enlightened philosophy, 
the devil had grown old and accusations of sorcery 
were rare. But the belief in the supernatural still 
continued to thrive ; and in the century of universal 
scepticism, the century of Voltaire and the Ency- 
clopedists, when faith in everything till then venerated 
was exploded, that in the marvellous alone survived. 
"The more civilization advances," wrote Voltaire, 
"the more noise does superstition make." 

On the eve of the French Revolution, Mesmer 



electrified the world with his animal magnetism. 
With this discovery the belief in the supernatural 
entered a new and more wonderful phase. The 
marvellous had passed from a grossly material to 
a purely spiritual plane. The magnetism of Mesmer 
was followed by the hypnotism of the Marquis de 
Puys^gur, with its attendant train of table-turn- 
ing and telepathy, clairvoyance and clairaudience, 
spiritualism, theosophy, and Christian science. To- 
day the whole system of the hermetic philosophy of the 
Egyptians and Hindus has been re-discovered, re- 
deciphered, and restored with the most astonishing 
results and the most conspicuous success to the 
amazement of the world. 

Never has the belief in the supernatural been more 
flourishing and more invincible than at the present. 
Side by side with the positivism of modern science 
marches the mysticism of the occult, equally confident 
and undaunted, and equally victorious. Not a link 
in the chain that connects the phenomena of the 
mediums and adepts of to-day with those of the 
Chaldaeans has been broken. Madame Blavatsky 
and Mrs. Eddy are the latest descendants of Hermes 
Trismegistus, who whether regarded as man, god, 
or the personification of all the knowledge of his 
remote times, is the parent of all the wonder-workers, 
scientific as well as unscientific, of the world. The 
prodigies of these priestesses of theosophy and 
Christian science, which are the last and most 
popular manifestations of the marvellous, are no 
less significant, and much more wonderful because 
more inexplicable, than those of a Ramsay or a Curie. 

As to the future of this faith in the supernatural, 



^Aftcr Tujot) 

i To face page 76 

Eighteenth Century Occultism 

one thing may reasonably be taken for granted ; the 
marvellous will never cease to appeal to the imagina- 
tion of mankind till the riddle of the universe is solved. 
To deride it is ridiculous. Occultism is not a menace to 
progress, but a spur. Its secrets are not to be ridiculed, 
but to be explained. That is its challenge to modern 
science, which is at once its offspring and its servant. 

The desire to prolong life, the desire to enjoy life, 
and the desire to look beyond life are inherent in 
human nature, and man has sought from time imme- 
morial to realize them. To-day it is to science that 
we look for the realization of the first two of these 
great desires of which it is the outcome ; while it is 
only with the third that the marvellous, or what is 
understood by occultism, is now associated. 

Formerly, however, the search for remedies for 
the irremediable was conducted exclusively in the 
sphere of the supernatural. The love of life gave rise 
to the quest for the Fountain of Youth, which still 
continues under innumerable other forms and names 
that will occur to every one. The latest, perhaps, is 
the Menshikov Sour Milk Cure. From the love of 
ease sprang the search for the ''philosopher's stone," 
which was to create wealth by the transmutation of 
metals into gold. This quest which long captivated 
the imagination of men is now entirely abandoned, 
though its object,, needless to say, is more furiously 
desired than ever. While to the curiosity as to the 
future we owe the pseudo-sciences of astrology, 
palmistry, fortune-telling, divination, etc. 


Those who devoted their lives to these things 
were divided into three classes — alchemists, astrologers, 
and the motley tribe of quacks and charlatans, who 
may be summed up for sake of convenience under the 
name of sorcerers. These divisions, however, were 
by no means hard and fast. United by a common 
idea each class dabbled in the affairs of the others. 
Thus astrologers and sorcerers were often alchemists, 
and alchemists seldom confined their attention solely 
to the search for the elixir vitae and the philosopher's 

As the alchemists, owing to their superior know- 
ledge, and the results they obtained, were more 
considered than the astrologers and sorcerers, alchemy 
developed into a science at an early date. The 
obscurity in which its origin is involved is a sign 
of its antiquity. Some enthusiasts believe it to be 
coeval with the creation of man. Vincent de Beauvais 
was of the opinion that all the antediluvians must have 
had some knowledge of alchemy, and cites Noah as 
having been acquainted with the elixir vitae, " other- 
wise he could not have lived to so prodigious an age 
and begotten children when upwards of five hundred." 
Others have traced it to the Egyptians, from whom 
Moses was believed to have learnt it. Martini, on the 
other hand, affirms that alchemy was practised by 
the Chinese two thousand five hundred years before 
the birth of Christ. But though a belief in the trans- 
mutation of metals was general in the Roman Empire, 
the practice of alchemy does not appear to have 
received much consideration before the eighth century. 
At this period the discoveries of Gebir, an Arabian 
alchemist, gave so great a stimulus to the quest of 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

the philosopher's stone and the ehxir of life that he 
is generally regarded as the creator of these picturesque 
delusions, which for a thousand years had so great 
a hold on the popular imagination. 

Banned and fostered in turn, and often at the same 
time, by the Church ; practised in all classes of society 
and by all sorts and conditions of people ; regarded 
with admiration and contempt ; alchemy has played 
too vast and important a role in the history of 
humanity to be despised, wild and romantic though 
this role has been. Nothing could be more unjust 
and absurd than to judge it by the charlatans who 
exploited it. The alchemists whom history still 
remembers were in reality the pioneers of civilization, 
who, venturing ahead of the race befogged in dense 
forests of ignorance and superstition, cut a road 
through to the light, along which mankind travelled 
slowly in their wake. Not only were these fantastic 
spirits of light the parents of modern science and 
physics, but they have helped to adorn literature and 
art. Some idea of their importance may be gathered 
from the many words in common use that they have 
given to the language, such as : crucible, amalgam, 
alcohol, potash, laudanum, precipitate^ saturation, dis- 
tillation, quintessence, affinity, etc. 

The alchemists often stumbled upon discoveries 
they did not seek. Science is thus indebted to Gebir 
for the first suggestion of corrosive sublimate, the red 
oxide of mercury, nitric acid, and nitrate of silver ; 
to Roger Bacon for the telescope, the magic lantern, 
and gunpowder; to Van Helmont for the properties 
of gas ; to Paracelsus, the most extraordinary of them 
all, for laudanum. It is to him also that medicine 



owes the idea of the clinic. As in chemistry so in 
other sciences the most important discoveries were 
made by men who had a marked taste for alchemic 
theories. Kepler was guided in his investigations by 
cabalistic considerations. 

The search for gold and youth, however, were 
only one phase of alchemy. It was too closely allied 
to what was known as "magic" not to be confounded 
with it. In the popular estimation the alchemists were 
all magicians. Most, perhaps all, of the so-called 
occult phenomena so familiar to us to-day were 
performed by them. Long before such things as 
animal magnetism, hypnotism, telepathy, ventriloquism, 
autosuggestion, etc., had a name, the alchemists had 
discovered them, though they themselves were as 
unable to explain or account for the wonders they 
performed as the ignorant world that witnessed them. 

Albertus Magnus had the power to delude whole 
crowds, precisely as Indian necromancers do at the 
present. Cornelius Agrippa "at the request of 
Erasmus and other learned men called up from the 
grave many of the great philosophers of antiquity, 
among others Cicero, whom he caused to re-deliver 
his celebrated oration for Roscius." He also showed 
Lord Surrey, when on the continent, "the resemblance 
in a glass " of his mistress, the fair Geraldine. " She 
was represented on a couch weeping for her lover. 
Lord Surrey made a note of the exact time at which 
he saw this vision and afterwards ascertained that his 
mistress was so employed at the very minute." The 
famous Dr. Dee, whose whole life was devoted to the 
search for the philosopher's stone, was an accomplished 
crystal -gazer and spirit-rapper. 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

It was, without doubt, the strong and crude 
element of magic in alchemy that prepared the way 
for the great change that came over the science at 
the beginning of the seventeenth century. With the 
revival of learning that followed the Renaissance, 
there arose a mysterious sect in Germany known as 
the Rosicruclans, who were destined to revolutionize 
the belief in the supernatural. They claimed to derive 
their name from a certain Christian Rosencreutz who, 
in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, had been initiated 
into the mysteries of the wisdom of the East. The 
tenets of the Rosicrucians, as well as their existence, 
were first made known to the world at the beginning 
of the seventeenth century in an anonymous German 
work said to have been found in the tomb of Rosen- 
creutz, who had died one hundred and twenty years 

The absurd legends concerning him have led many 
to deny that such a person as Rosencreutz ever 
existed. Such writers attribute the origin of the 
society to the theories of Paracelsus and Dr. Dee, 
who unconsciously became the real though unrecog- 
nized founders of the Rosicrucians. Be this as it may, 
no sooner were their doctrines generally known than 
all the alchemists and believers in the marvellous 
hastened to accept them. The influence thus acquired 
by the "Society of the Rose-Cross" was as beneficial 
as it was far-reaching. Its character was a sort of 
Protestant mysticism, and its chief aim the gratuitous 
healing of the sick. Hitherto alchemy and the belief 
in the supernatural had been grossly materialistic. 
The Rosicrucians refined the one and spiritualized the 
other. They claimed that by strictly conforming to 
G 8i 


the rules of their philosophy, of which chastity was 
the most rigorous and important, they could ignore 
hunger or thirst, enjoy perfect health, and prolong 
their lives indefinitely. Of the occult knowledge they 
possessed, that of transmuting metals into gold was 
stripped of its old significance. The philosopher's 
stone was no longer to be regarded as merely the 
means of acquiring riches, but the instrument by which 
mankind could command the service of the spirits of 
the invisible world. 

They denied that these were the horrible and 
terrifying demons with which the monks had peopled 
the unseen, but mild, beautiful, and beneficent sprites, 
anxious to be of service to men. In the Rosicrucian 
imagination there existed in each element a race of 
spirits peculiar to it. Thus the air was inhabited by 
Sylphs, the water by Undines, the earth by Gnomes, 
and the fire by Salamanders. It was by them that all 
that was marvellous was done. In the course of their 
development the mystical tendencies of the Rosi- 
crucians became more and more pronounced. Thus 
they finally came to regard the philosopher's stone as 
signifying contentment, the secret of which was com- 
pared in the mystical phraseology they adopted to 
'* a spirit that lived within an emerald and converted 
everything near it to the highest perfection it was 
capable of." 

In fine, Rosicruclanism may be described as the 
bridge over which the belief in the supernatural passed 
from sorcery, witchcraft, and the grossest superstition 
to the highly spiritualized form in which it is mani- 
fested at the present. The transit, however, was not 
effected without interruption. Towards the beginning 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

of the eighteenth century the bridge, undermined by 
the mockery and scepticism of the age, collapsed. 
About fifty years later it was reconstructed by Sweden- 
borg on a new and spiritualistic system. In the mean- 
time, as will be seen, superstition adrift on the ocean 
of unbelief, clutched credulously at every straw that 
floated by. 


The old belief in alchemy as a magical science did 
not survive the seventeenth century. It is true the 
credulous and ignorant, deluded by swindlers and 
impostors, long continued to regard alchemy as super- 
natural ; but the bona-fide alchemists themselves, who 
were able and intelligent men, had begun to under- 
stand the nature of their discoveries. The symbolic 
interpretation of the philosopher's stone led to a new 
conception of the uses of the crucible. The alchemists 
of the eighteenth century, during which the name 
was still in common use, though its original signi- 
fication had become obsolete, were really amateur 
chemists. From pseudo-science modern science was 
beginning to be evolved. 

The great changes, however, that upset the convic- 
tions and disintegrated the whole fabric of society of 
the eighteenth century, were favourable to the increase 
and spread of superstition. The amazing recrudes- 
cence of the belief in the supernatural, which was one 
of the most conspicuous features of the age, was the 
direct result of the prevailing infidelity and indiffer- 
ence. Persecuted, banned, anathematized, but never 
exterminated, it crept from the hiding-places In which 
it had lurked for centuries, and in the age of unbelief 



emerged boldly into the light of day. The forms it 
assumed were many and various. 

In 1729 Jansenism — a sort of evangelical move- 
ment in the Church of Rome — which in its war with 
Jesuitism in the previous century had been crushed, 
but not exterminated, took advantage of the apathy of 
the time to reassert itself. To do this with success 
it was necessary to make a powerful appeal to the 
popular imagination, and as no means are as sure of 
producing effect as supernatural ones, the world was 
startled by a series of miracles performed at the grave 
of Deacon Paris, a famous martyr in the cause of 
Jansenism. These miracles, which at first took the 
form of cures such as at the present day are to be 
seen at Lourdes, soon acquired fame. All sorts of 
people, whom the doctors were unable to restore to 
health, began to flock to the Jansenist Cemetery of St. 
Medard, where it was discovered that other graves 
beside that of Deacon Paris, and finally the whole 
cemetery shared the healing properties of his ashes. 
The hitherto simple character of the cures was 
changed. They were accompanied by extraordinary 
convulsions, considered more divine than the cures 
themselves, in which the bones cracked, the body was 
scorched with fever, or parched with cold, and the 
invalid fell into a prophetic transport. 

The noise of these pathological phenomena attracted 
immense crowds to the Cemetery of St. Medard, 
where the spectators, who were drawn out of mere idle 
curiosity, as well as those who came to be cured, were 
seized or pretended to be seized with the convulsive 
frenzy. The popularity of St. Medard induced the 
Jansenists to attach similar virtues to other cemeteries. 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

Convulsions became epidemic ; the contagion spread 
to the provinces which, jealous of Paris, determined to 
have their share of the Jansenlst deacon's favours. 
Similar scenes to those at St. Medard were enacted in 
several towns all over France, notably at Troyes and 
Corbeil. The miracles now gave rise to scandalous 
scenes. Women convulsionnaires ran through the 
streets "searching for the prophet Elijah." Some 
believing they had found him in a handsome priest 
named Valllant, a visionary who had persuaded him- 
self that he was the reincarnation of Elijah, testified 
their adoration for him in a manner that indicated 
their convulsions were caused by erotic hysteria rather 
than by the miraculous properties of the bones of 
Deacon Paris. Others stretched themselves at full 
length on the ground of the cemetery, and Invited the 
spectators to beat them and otherwise maltreat them, 
only declaring themselves satisfied when ten or twelve 
men fell upon them at once. 

The cure of a girl who had a frightful collection of 
Infirmities, "swellings in the legs, hernia, paralysis, 
fistula, etc.," was the signal for a general St. Vitus' 
dance, led by the Abbe Becherand, an ecclesiastic with 
one foot shorter than the other. "He executed daily 
on the tomb of the sainted deacon," says Figuier, 
" with a talent not to be matched, his favourite /<3;j-, the 
famous 'carp jump,' which the spectators were never 
tired of admiring." 

But by this time the miracles had become a public 
scandal, and the government hastened to suppress the 
''ballet de St. Medard" and close the cemetery. The 
Jansenlsts to escape ridicule, which would have killed 
them more surely than the Jesuits, were obliged to 



disassociate themselves from the convulsionnaires, who 
formed themselves into a sect, v^rhich existed down to 
the Revolution. 

To-day medical science has stripped the convul- 
sionnaires of St. Mddard of the last rag of the 
supernatural, but in the eighteenth century only the 
sane intelligence of the philosophers divested them of 
all claims to wonder. Their fame spread throughout 
Europe and helped in its way to emphasize the trend 
of public opinion in which the boundless credulity and 
ignorance of the many advanced side by side through 
the century with the scepticism and enlightenment of 
the few. 

So strong was the passion for the marvellous that 
the least mystification acquired a supernatural signifi- 
cance. In Catholic Germany a cur6 named Gassner 
who exorcised people possessed of devils and cured the 
sick by a touch had over a million adherents. In 
England, ** Dr." Graham with his ** celestial bed," his 
elixirs of generation, and his mud-baths, acquired 
an immense reputation. In Switzerland, Lavater, an 
orthodox Lutheran pastor, read character and told the 
future by the physiognomy with astonishing success. 

At Leipsic, Schropfer, the proprietor of a cafe, 
flattered credulity so cleverly that belief in his ability 
to communicate with the invisible world survived even 
his exposure as an impostor. His history is not without 
dramatic interest. Gifted with a temperament strongly 
inclined to mysticism he became so infatuated with the 
study of the supernatural that he abandoned his 
profession of cafetier as beneath him and turned his 
caf6 into a masonic lodge where he evoked the souls 
of the dead, damned and saved alike. Some of those 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

who witnessed these apparitions believing they 
recognized relations or friends, went mad, a fate that 
was not long in overtaking Schropfer himself. 
Intoxicated by the immense vogue he obtained, he 
next turned his lodge into a private hotel in which he 
received only persons of rank, assuming himself that of 
a colonel in the French army to which he declared 
he was entitled as *' a bastard of the Prince de Conti." 
Unfortunately at Dresden, whither he had gone to 
evoke the shade of a King of Poland for the benefit 
of the Duke of Courland, his imposture was exposed. 
Schropfer hereupon returned to Leipsic and after 
giving a grand supper to some of his most faithful 
adherents blew out his brains. Nevertheless, this 
did not prevent many from continuing to believe in his 
evocations. A report that he had predicted he would 
himself appear after his death to his followers at a 
given hour in the Rosenthal at Leipsic, caused a 
vast concourse of people to assemble In that promenade 
on the day specified in the expectation of beholding 
his shade. 

Still more remarkable than the credulity that clung 
to imposture after Its exposure, was the credulity that 
discovered supernatural powers in persons who did 
not even pretend to possess them. The curiosity that 
scented the marvellous in the impenetrable mystery in 
which it pleased the self-styled Count de Saint-Germain 
to wrap himself, induced him to amuse himself at the 
expense of the credulous. With the aid of his valet, 
who entered into the jest, he contrived to wrap his 
very existence in mystery. He had only to speak of 
persons who had been dead for centuries to convince 
people he had known them. Many believed he had 



witnessed the Crucifixion, merely because by a sigh or 
a hint he conveyed that impression when the subject 
was mentioned. No absurdity was too extravagant to 
relate of him that was not credited. Even his servant 
was supposed to have moistened his lips at the 
Fountain of Youth. 

As the century advanced the folly increased. 
Rumours began to be current that agitated the 
popular mind — rumours of secret societies bound by 
terrible oaths and consecrated to shady designs, 
rumours of the impending fulfilment of old and awful 
prophecies ; rumours of vampires and witches ; of 
strange coincidences and strange disappearances — 
rumours in which one may trace the origin of the 
haunting suspicion to which the Reign of Terror was 
due. All the superstitions regarding the unseen world 
had their vogue. In Protestant countries interpreters 
of the Apocalypse were rife. Everywhere the dead 
came back to affright the living, led by the " White 
Lady," Death's messenger to the Hohenzollerns. 

In such an atmosphere it was not surprising that 
the baquet divinatoire of Mesmer should have seemed 
more wonderful than the scientific discoveries of 
Newton and Lavoisier. Cagliostro had only to appear 
to be welcomed, only to provide credulity with fresh 
occult novelties to win a niche in the temple of fame. 


Occultism, however, like human nature of which it 
is the mystical replica, has its spiritual as well as its 
material side, and from the depths of gross supersti- 
tion is capable of mounting to the heights of pure 

Eighteenth Century Occultism 

mysticism. In the boundless credulity of the age, 
symptom of death though it was, the germ of a new 
life was latent. 

The uneasy and forbidding ghosts of dead faiths 
that haunted Europe awoke aspirations in ardent and 
passionate souls which sought their realization in the 
fantastic reign of dreams. From the chaos of super- 
stition the need to believe gradually emerged. In the 
process the marvellous became mystical. On the ruins 
of Rosicrucianism, Emmanuel Swedenborg erected a 
new supernatural belief. 

This man whose influence in the latter half of the 
eighteenth century, especially in the years immediately 
preceding the Revolution was more subtle than the 
philosophers who derided him had any conception, is 
Occultism's Copernicus ; the spiritual Abraham from 
whom all the Blavatskys and Eddys of the present 
are descended. 

He was born at Stockholm in 1688 and throughout 
his long life — he died in London in 1772 at the age of 
eighty-four — Fortune was uniformly and exceptionally 
kind to him. Possessed of brains, sharpened and 
cultivated by an excellent education, of an attractive 
personal appearance and influential friends, he began 
at an early date to make his mark, as the saying 
is. At twenty-one he started on the " grand tour," 
which it was customary in those days for young men of 
wealth and position to make. But young Swedenborg 
was not one of those who merely wandered luxuriously 
about Europe pursuing pleasure. Avid of knowledge 
he devoted the time others spent in dissipation to 
Greek, Latin, Hebrew, mathematics, science and 
philosophy. At the end of five years he returned to 



Sweden with the intention of giving himself up entirely 
to science. He published a scientific review and 
gained some reputation as an inventor. At the age of 
twenty-eight Charles XII appointed him assessor of 
mines ; and three years later Queen Ulrica raised him 
to the rank of nobility, by which his name was changed 
from Swedberg, as his family was originally called, to 
the more euphonious and aristocratic Swedenborg. 

Being of an exceedingly inquiring and philosophical 
mind and having plenty of leisure he naturally widened 
the area of his investigations. For many years he 
sought to find the scientific explanation of the universe. 
This quest and the intensity with which he pursued 
it insensibly led him to seek to discover the connection 
between the soul and the body, the relation of the finite 
to the infinite. From this stage, to which he had been 
led no doubt by the force of heredity — his father, a 
Lutheran bishop and professor of theology believed 
himself in constant intercourse with angels — it was but 
a step to the supernatural. The scientist, however, 
takes a long time in turning into the mystic. Sweden- 
borg was fifty-seven before the transformation was 

This event occurred in London in 1745. 

"I was dining," he says, *' one day very late at my 
hotel in London, and I ate with great appetite, when 
at the end of my repast I perceived a sort of fog which 
obstructed my view, and the floor was covered with , 
hideous reptiles. They disappeared, the darkness was \ 
dispersed, and I plainly saw in the midst of a bright 
light, a man sitting in the corner of the room, who said 
in a terrible voice. Do not eat so much ! " 

From the character of this vision, " Do not 




Eighteenth Century Occultism 

drink so much " would appear to have been the more 
sensible advice. Be this as it may, Swedenborg was so 
frightened that he resolved to do as he had been bidden. 
His diet henceforth was of the simplest, and it is 
possible that the sudden change from one extreme to 
the other at an age when the system has lost its 
elasticity may not be unconnected with the continuation 
of his visions. 

The next night *'the same man, resplendent with 
light," appeared to him again. This time while 
Swedenborg gazed upon the spectre, which was perhaps 
a thought visualized by the intensity of its fascination, 
it said, *' I am God the Lord, the Creator and 
Redeemer of the world. I have chosen thee to explain 
the meaning of the Holy Scripture. I will dictate to 
thee what thou shalt write." 

Whatever cause Swedenborg may have assigned to 
the previous vision, he did not doubt for a moment 
now that the Most High had actually revealed Himself 
to him. This conviction was so reassuring that the 
strange things he beheld in his visions ceased to have 
any terror for him. If he ever asked himself why he 
should have been selected by the Almighty above the 
rest of mankind for so great an honour, the frequency 
of the divine appearances no doubt speedily satisfied 
his curiosity, for not a day passed during the rest of his 
life but God descended from Paradise — or if too busy, 
*' sent an angel or saint in His place " — to converse 
with this remarkably privileged Swede and explain to 
him the mysteries of Heaven and Hell. 

In the visions of St. Francis and St. Theresa, the 
Virgin, Jesus and the Almighty appeared according to 
the Roman Catholic conception of them. The faith of 



Swedenborg's heavenly visitor was Lutheran — a faith 
be it said, to which Swedenborg adhered as devotedly 
as Saints Francis and Theresa did to theirs — and when 
he appeared he dressed accordingly, wearing neither 
the Stigmata nor the Crown of Thorns without which 
no good Catholic would have recognized him. He 
spoke a mystical jargon which was often so absurd as 
to be unintelligible. 

The Unseen World, as revealed to Swedenborg was 
the exact counterpart of the seen. It was inhabited by 
spirits of both sexes — the good ones dwelt in Heaven 
and the bad ones in Hell. They had the same occu- 
pations as people on the earth. They married and 
begot children, among other things ; and Swedenborg 
was present at one of these celestial weddings. They 
also had *' schools for infant angels ; universities for 
the learned ; and fairs for such as were commercially in- 
clined — particularly for the English and Dutch angels ! " 
For the spirits of the Unseen had all lived in the seen. 

According to Swedenborg, man never dies. The 
day he experiences what he calls death is the day of his 
eternal resurrection. Christ was the ruler of both these 
worlds. He was the one and only God. All human 
desire would be consummated when the two worlds 
should become one, as they had been in the beginning, 
before the Fall. On this day the New Jerusalem 
would be established on earth. To hasten this events 
it was necessary to seek the '' lost word " or ** primitive 
innocence." This was Swedenborg's idea of the 
philosopher's stone, which he declared was to be found 
in the doctrines he taught. Should any person be 
tempted to seek it elsewhere, he was advised to go in 
quest of it in Asia, '' among the Tartars " ! 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

It was some time, however, before he became at 
home in the spiritual world. Time ceased to have any 
significance to him. He would lie for days in a trance 
from which he would awake at night '' to wrestle with 
evil spirits " to the terror of his household. Sometimes 
his soul would escape altogether from his body and 
** borne on the wings of the Infinite, journey through 
Immensity from planet to planet." To these travels, 
the most marvellous that imagination has ever taken, 
we owe the Arcana Coelestia and The New Jerusalem. 
These books translated from the Latin in which they 
had been dictated to him by the Almighty had a 
prodigious success. In Protestant countries — which 
he personally canvassed — especially in Sweden and 
England where he made the most converts, they were 
regarded as the gospel of a new religion, the Bible of 
the Church of the New Jerusalem. 

*' Show me four persons," said Fontenelle, " who 
swear it is midnight when it is noon, and I will show 
you ten thousand to believe them." 

Firmly convinced that he was in daily intercourse 
with the Almighty, Swedenborg soon convinced others. 
For his was the faith which removes mountains. He 
had, moreover, a majestic appearance and a magnetic 
personality which rendered ridicule silent in his pre- 
sence, and inspired the confidence and love of all who 
came in contact with him. Three extraordinary 
instances of his power to communicate with the un- 
seen world are cited by his followers. Even Kant, 
the philosopher, was struck by them, though he con- 
fesses that on inquiry he dismissed them as having 
no foundation but report. Nevertheless there were 
thousands who did not doubt, least of all Queen Ulrica. 


Cagliostro |B 

Had Swedenborg not related to her the contents of a 
letter known only to herself and her brother who had 
been dead for years ? 

That the sentimental Lutheranized Gnosticism he 
preached should have been received with enthusiasm 
in Protestant Europe is not surprising. The peoples 
of the North are naturally mystical. Nothing that 
appears to them in the guise of religion is too fantastic 
to be refused a hearing. In England the more fantastic 
the more certain is it of success. Swedenborgianism 
was to the ''illuminized Jerusalemites " of Manchester, 
where alone they numbered twenty thousand, merely 
a very delicious rechauffde of a diet to which their 
imagination was specially addicted. The eagerness 
with which it was accepted in England was due 
entirely to appetite. 

Much more remarkable was the influence of 
Swedenborg in the Catholic world. Naturally it 
manifested itself differently in different nations, as- 
suming the character peculiar to each. Thus, whilst 
in England supernaturalism under the influence of 
Swedenborg became a religious craze, in France it 
grafted itself upon philosophy, and in Germany infected 
the secret societies in which the theories of the French 
philosophers found active political expression. 

The secret of this universal appeal is not far to 
seek. It was one of the articles of faith with the old 
Rosicrucians that by them ** the triple diadem of the 
pope should be reduced to dust." The theosophy of 
Swedenborg /r^^/^;;/^^ the liberty, equality, and fratern- 
ity of mankind. It was at once the spiritual negation 
and defiance of the arrogant supremacy of both Church 
and State. Occultism, which has ever proclaimed the 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

spiritual rebellion of the soul against any kind of 
tyranny, was in the eighteenth century of necessity 
revolutionary. Of the forces of disintegration to 
which the ancien regime succumbed, it was the only 
one that worked systematically towards a definite 

In the previous century, when the social system that 
deprived the soul of its liberty seemed irrefragable, the 
Rosicrucians had resignedly considered contentment to 
be the philosopher's stone. But now when the whole 
structure was toppling, it was necessary to interpret 
afresh, and in terms more in accordance with occult 
principles, the secret of perfection. To the mystics of 
the eighteenth century the ''philosophical ^gg'' by 
means of which the tyranny of throne and altar was 
to be transmuted into the gold of absolute liberty was 
the Revolution. 

And the crass credulity and superstition of the age 
was the crucible in which they sought it. 


Nothing is more curious than to note the manner 
in which these descendants of the old alchemists, 
pioneers at one and the same time of modern Occultism 
and modern Socialism, while engaged in shadowing, so 
to speak, the unbelief of their century, conspired to put 
an end to the old regime. 

In spite of the disasters that dimmed the glory of 
the last years of Louis XIV's long reign, the immense 
prestige that France had acquired in le grand siecle 
remained unchallenged. Intellectually the influence 

95 , 

fh ;p-=^i '^ 


of France under his successors was so supreme that 
the decay of French civiHzation in the eighteenth 
century may be regarded as a sort of mirror in which 
the process of the disintegration of European society 
generally is reflected. Already as early as 1 704, eleven 
years before the death of Louis XIV, when author- 
ity still seemed to be everywhere dominant, Leibnitz 
detected ''all the signs of the general Revolution with 
which Europe is menaced." With the passing of Louis 
XIV respect, the chief stronghold of feudalism, sur- 
rendered to the cynicism of the Regency. In that 
insane Saturnalia chains were snapped, traditions 
shattered, old and worn-out conventions trampled 
under-foot. The Regency was but the Revolution in 

The orgy of licence passed in its turn, as the gloomy 
and bigoted hypocrisy of which it was the natural reac- 
tion, had passed before it. But the calm of the exquisite 
refinement that took its place was only superficial. 
Freedom conceived in the revels of the Regency 
yearned to be born. To assist at this accoucheme7it 
was the aim of all the philosophical midwifery of the 
age. In 1734 Voltaire, physician-in-ordinary to the 
century, declared " action to be the chief object of 
mankind." But as freedom of action is impossible with- 
out freedom of thought Vauvenargues next demanded 
in clarion tones that '* God should be freed." The idea 
of " freeing God " in order to free man was an inspira- 
tion, and Vauvenargues' magnificent phrase became 
the tocsin of the philosophers. 

But the chief effect of the Regency upon France, 
and thus indirectly upon Europe, had been to "free 
unbelief." Authority, which had feared faith when 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

alive and despised it when dead, crawled into the 
shell from which the snail of belief had departed and 
displayed the same predatory and brutal instincts as 
the intolerant religion in whose iron carapace it 
dwelt. To dislodge it was the first step towards 
" freeing God " ; and all sorts and conditions of 
athletes entered the arena to battle with prejudice and 
injustice. In France, where the contest was destined 
to be decided, the Bastille or banishment was the 
punishment that brute authority awarded those who 
dared to defy it. But to crush the rebellion of intelli- 
gence against stupidity was impossible. The efforts of 
the philosophers were reinforced by sovereigns imbued 
with the spirit of the century. With Frederick the 
Great a race of benevolent despots sprang into exist- 
ence, who dazzled by the refulgence of the philosophical 
light they so much admired did not perceive till too late 
that in igniting their torches at its flame they were 
helping to kindle a conflagration destined to destroy 
the system that would deprive them of the absolute 
freedom they enjoyed, and to a limited share of which 
they were willing to admit the nations they ruled. 

Nor for that matter did the philosophers them- 
selves. To them as well as to their princely disciples 
*' to free God " was another name for religious 
toleration. That was the revolution for which the 
Encyclopedists worked, and which Frederick the Great 
and the sovereigns who shared his enlightened opinions 
desired. Nothing was further from their intention 
than that it should take the form in which it eventually 
came. It is impossible to believe that the Revolution 
which demanded the heads of a Lavoisier and a 
Bailly would have spared those of a Voltaire or a 
H 97 


Rousseau. Least of all would the stupid mob that 
watched the victims doomed to the guillotine ** spit 
into the basket," as it termed in ferocious jest the fall 
of the heads beneath the axe, have made any dis- 
tinction between the virtuous and innocent Louis XVI 
and Joseph II, or the Empress Catherine, had it 
been possible to arraign them likewise at the bar of 
the Revolutionary Tribunal. The gratitude of the 
people is even less to be depended on than that of 
princes. But God was not to be '' freed " in a day. 
Seventy-five years elapsed between Freedom's con- 
ception in the Regency and birth in the Revolution. 

During this long pregnancy the century which was 
to die in child-bed developed an extraordinary appetite 
for the supernatural. To the materialistic philosophy 
that analyzed and sought to control the process of 
decay which by the middle of the century had become 
visible, even to one so indifferent to ** signs of the 
times " as Louis XV, the cult of the supernatural 
was an element unworthy of serious consideration. 
But though long ignored the time was to come when 
it obtained from the torch-bearers of reason a ques- 
tionable and dangerous patronage. It was on the eve 
of the birth of Freedom that " the century of Voltaire," 
as Henri Martin expresses it, "extended its hand to 
the occultists of the middle ages." 

Between Voltaire and cabalistic evocations, between 
the scepticism of the Encyclopedists and the mysticism 
of Swedenborg who would believe there could be any 
affiliation ? Yet the transition was natural enough. 
The philosophers in their abuse of analysis had too 
persistently sacrificed sentiment to reason. Imagina- 
tion, which Louis Blanc has called the intoxication 



Eighteenth Century Occultism 

of intelligence, had begun to doubt everything by 
the middle of the century. Reaction was inevitable 
The sneers of Voltaire were succeeded by the tears 
of Rousseau. The age of sensibility followed the age 
of unbelief. This was the hour for which a despised 
occultism had waited. It alone had a clear and 
definite conception of the Revolution. Patronized by 
philosophy, which vacillated between sentiment and 
reason, it imbued it finally with its own revolutionary 
ideas. The extent of their ascendency may be gauged 
by the declaration of Condorcet, " that volcano covered 
with snow," as he has been called, *' that society must 
have as its object the amelioration, physical, intel- 
lectual and moral of the most numerous and poorest 
class." In his desire to escape from materialism the 
philosopher trained in the school of Voltaire had but 
taken the road to perfection along which the mystics 
were leading France and Europe. 

Strange to relate, the leader of the mystical move- 
ment in France to which philosophy was destined 
to attach itself, was himself the mildest and least 
revolutionary of men. 

Louis Claude de Saint-Martin might be described 
as the reincarnation of St. Francis of Assisi in the 
eighteenth century. Had he lived four hundred years 
earlier he would have passed his gentle flower-like life 
in the seclusion of some cloister, had beatific visions 
of the Saviour of the world, communed with the 
Virgin and Saints, worked miracles, founded a 
monastic order, and at his death been canonized by 
the Church, of whose faith he would have been the 
champion and of its tenderness the exemplar. Pure 
and meditative by nature he had been greatly 
H 2 99 


influenced when a boy by an ascetic book, The Art 
of Knowing Oneself, that he chanced to read. As 
his father, to whom he was deeply attached, intended 
him for the Bar he devoted himself to the study of 
law, and though he had no taste for the profession 
passed his examinations. But after practising six 
months he declared himself incapable of distinguishing 
in any suit between the claims of the defendant and 
the plaintiff, and requested to be allowed to exchange 
the legal profession for the military — not because he 
had any liking for the career of arms, but in order 
that he might "have leisure to continue the study 
of religion and philosophy." 

To oblige his father the Due de Choiseul, then 
Prime Minister, gave him a lieutenancy in the 
Regiment de Foix, then in garrison at Bordeaux. 
Here he met one of those strange characters so 
common in this century, who, either charlatans of 
genius or dreamers by temperament, supplied with 
arms from the arsenal of the supernatural boldly 
asserted the supremacy of the occult and attacked 
science and philosophy alike. This particular indi- 
vidual was called Martinez Pasqualis, but as like so 
many of his kind he enveloped himself in mystery it is 
impossible to discover who or what he was, or where 
he came from. He was supposed to be a Christianized 
Jew from one of the Portuguese colonies in the East, 
which would account perhaps for his skill in the 
practice of the occult. At any rate, the strange 
secrecy he maintained in regard to himself was 
sufficient in the eighteenth century to credit him 
with supernatural powers. 

When Saint-Martin met him in Bordeaux he had 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

for ten years held a sort of school of theurgy. At 
Avignon, Toulouse, and other Southern cities his 
pupils or disciples formed themselves into a sect, 
known as Martinists after their master, for the practice 
of his doctrines, which though but vaguely understood 
were attractive from the hopes they held out of 
communicating with the invisible world. Saint- 
Martin was the first to grasp their meaning. He 
joined the Martinists, whose existence till then was 
scarcely known, and became their chief when the 
dissensions to which the private life of Pasqualis had 
given rise were healed by his sudden and singular 
departure for Haiti, where he died of yellow fever 
shortly after his arrival. 

Drawn from obscurity by the personal charm and 
high social position of its new leader, Martinism 
rapidly attracted attention. In a strange little book, 
Des Erreurs et de la V^ritd par un philosophe inconnu^ 
Saint- Martin endeavoured to detach himself and his 
adherents from the magic in which' Pasqualis — who 
practised it openly — had involved this sect. But 
though he gave up the quest of supernatural 
phenomena as unnecessary to an acquaintance with 
the unseen, and wandered deeper and deeper into 
pure mysticism, he never wholly succeeded in escaping 
from the grosser influence of his first initiation in the 
occult. From the fact, however, that he called himself 
the '* Robinson Crusoe of spiritualism," some idea 
may be gained of the distance that separated him 
from those who also claimed connection with the 
invisible world. He did not count on being under- 
stood. Of one of his books he said, ''it is too far 
from ordinary human ideas to be successful. I have 



often felt in writing it as if I were playing valses on 
my violin in the cemetery of Montmartre, where for 
all the magic of my bow, the dead will neither hear 
nor dance." 

Nevertheless, though philosophy failed to follow 
him to the remote regions of speculation to which he 
withdrew, it grasped enough of his meaning to apply 
it. And the Revolution, which before its arrival he 
had regarded as the " lost word " by which the 
regeneration of mankind was to be effected, and when 
it actually came as " the miniature of the last judg- 
ment," adopted his sacred ternary " Liberty, Equality, 
and Fraternity " — the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of 
Martinism — as its device. Saint- Martin was one of 
the few who strove to inaugurate it whom it did not 
devour. He passed through it unmolested, dying as 
he had lived gently. His only regret in passing from 
the visible to the invisible was that he had left 
''the mystery of numbers unsolved." 

The influence of Saint- Martin, however, was 
passive rather than active. Though philosophy con- 
fusedly and unconsciously imbibed the Socialistic 
theories of mysticism, the French being at once a 
practical and an excitable people were not to be 
kindled by speculations of the intellect, however 
daring, original, and attractive they might be. The 
palpable prodigies of Mesmer appealed more power- 
fully to them than the vague abstractions of Saint- 

It was in Germany that revolutionary mysticism 


Eighteenth Century Occultism 

found its motive power. Whilst Saint- Martin, pro- 
claiming in occult language that " all men were kings," 
sought to efface himself at the feet of sovereigns, 
Adam Weishaupt was shaking their thrones. It would 
be impossible to find two men more unlike. Weishaupt 
was the very antithesis of Saint-Martin. He was not 
a mystic at all, and furthermore always professed the 
greatest contempt for *' supernatural tricks." But con- 
sumed with an implacable hatred of despotism and 
with a genius for conspiracy he perceived in the wide- 
spread attraction and revolutionary tendency of the 
supernatural the engine of destruction he required. 

Born of Catholic parents at Ingolstadt in Bavaria, 
Weishaupt had been sent as a boy to the Jesuit 
seminary in that town, but conceiving a great dislike 
for the method of instruction employed there he left 
it for the university. On the temporary abolition of 
the Order of the Jesuits, having taken his degree, he 
was appointed to the professorship of jurisprudence 
till then held by a Jesuit. Though deprived of their 
functions the members of the suppressed Order still 
remained in the country, and posing as martyrs con- 
tinued to exercise in secret their malign influence as 
powerfully as ever. Weishaupt naturally found in 
them bitter enemies ; and to fight them conceived the 
idea of founding a secret society, which the great 
popularity he enjoyed among the students enabled 
him to realize. 

Perceiving the immense success that Gassner was 
having at this time by his cures, and fully alive to the 
powerful hold the passion for the supernatural had 
obtained on the popular imagination, he decided to 
give his society a mystic character as a means of 



recruiting followers. As Weishaupt's object was to 
convert them into blind instruments of his supreme 
will, he modelled his organization after that of the 
Jesuits, adopting in particular their system of espionage, 
their practice of passive obedience, and their maxim 
that the end justifies the means. From mysticism he 
borrowed the name of the society : Illumines. From 
freemasonry, the classes and grades into which they were 
subdivided, the purpose of which was to measure the 
progress of the adept in assimilating the doctrine of 
the absolute equality of man and to excite his imagina- 
tion by making him hope for the communication of some 
wonderful mystic secret when he reached the highest 
grade. Those who enjoyed the confidence of Weis- 
haupt were known as areopagites. To them alone was 
he visible, and as he deemed that too many precautions 
could not be observed in concealing the existence of a 
society sworn to the abolition of the Christian religion 
and the overthrow of the established social system, he 
and his accomplices adopted names by which alone 
they were known to the others. 

Comprised at first of a few students at the Univer- 
sity of Ingolstadt, the Illumines gradually increased 
their numbers and sought recruits in other places, 
special attention being given to the enlistment of 
young men of wealth and position. In this way, the 
real objects of Illuminism being artfully concealed, the 
society extended within the course of four or five years 
all over Germany. Its adepts even had a hand in 
affairs of State and gained the ear of many of those 
petty and picturesque sovereigns of the Empire who, 
catching the fever of philosophy from Frederick the 
Great and Joseph II, amused themselves in trying to 



{After Mansiiigvr) [ / o/ncc J>ag c 1 04 

Eighteenth Century Occultism 

blend despotism, philanthropy, and the occult. As 
the Illumines were utterly unscrupulous, they did not 
hesitate to seek recruits in the Church of Rome itself, 
of which they were the secret and deadly enemy, in 
order by taking sides in the theological quarrels of the 
day to increase dissensions arid weaken the power of 
the Pope. 

However, cleverly organized though they were, the 
Illumines, composed of very young and passionate men 
carefully chosen — Weishaupt himself was scarcely 
twenty-eight when he founded the sect in 1776 — did 
not make much progress, till Baron von Knigge joined 
them in 1780. He possessed the one faculty that 
Weishaupt lacked — imagination. Young, monstrously 
licentious, irreligious and intelligent, he was consumed 
with an insatiable curiosity for fresh experiences. He 
had written a number of novels which had attracted 
some attention and certain pamphlets on morals that 
had been put on the Index. He had been admitted 
to most of the secret societies of the day, particularly 
that of the Freemasons. He had experimented in 
alchemy and studied every phase of occultism from the 
philosophy of the Gnostics to that of Swedenborg. 
Everything that savoured of the supernatural had a 
profound attraction for him ; even sleight of hand 
tricks, it is said, had engaged his attention. At thirty 
he had seen, studied and analyzed everything, and still 
his imagination remained as untired and inquisitive as 
ever. An ally at once more invaluable and more 
dangerous it would have been impossible for Weishaupt 
to have procured. 

Admitted to the confidence of Weishaupt this 
young Hanoverian nobleman rapidly gained an 



ascendency over him. It was owing to the advice 
of Knigge that Weishaupt divided the Illumines into 
grades after the manner of the Freemasons, and 
adopted the method of initiation of which the mysteri- 
ous and terrifying rites were well calculated to impress 
the proselyte. With a Knigge to invent and a Weis- 
haupt to organize, the Illumines rapidly increased their 
numbers and activities. Overrunning Germany they 
crossed the frontiers preaching, proselytizing, and 
spreading the gospel of the Revolution everywhere. 
But this rapid development was not without its dangers. 
Conscious that the existence of such a society if it 
became known would inevitably lead to its suppression, 
Knigge, who was nothing if not resourceful, conceived 
the idea of grafting it on to Freemasonry, which by 
reason of its powerful connections and vast proportions 
would, he trusted, give to Illuminism both protection 
and the means of spreading more widely and rapidly. 

The origin of this association, the oldest known to 
the world, composed of men of all countries, ranks, 
and creeds sworn to secrecy, bound together by 
strange symbols and signs, whose real mystic meaning 
has long been forgotten, and to-day devoted to the 
practice of philanthropy on an extensive scale — has 
been the subject of much speculation. The theory, 
most generally accepted, is that which supposes it to 
have been founded at the time and for the purpose of 
building the Temple of Solomon. But whatever its 
early history. Freemasonry in its present form first 
came into prominence in the seventeenth century in 
England, whence it spread to France and Germany. 
It was introduced into the former country by the 
Jacobites early in the eighteenth century with the 

1 06 

Eighteenth Century Occultism 

object of furthering the cause of the Stuarts. On the 
extinction of their hopes, however, it reverted to its 
original ideals of equality and fraternity, and in spite 
of these democratic principles obtained a strong hold 
upon the aristocracy. Indeed, in France it was from 
the first a decidedly royalist institution and this 
character it preserved, outwardly at least, down to the 
Revolution, numbering nobles and clergy alike among 
its members, and always having a prince of the blood 
as Grand Master. 

In Germany, on the contrary, where since the 
Thirty Years' War popular aspirations and discontent 
had expressed themselves inarticulately in a multitude 
of secret societies, the principles of Freemasonry had 
a political rather than a social significance 

The importance it acquired from the number of its 
members, its international character, and its superior 
organization could not fail to excite the hostility of the 
Church of Rome, which will not tolerate within it the 
existence of secret and independent associations. The 
Jesuits had sworn allegiance to the Pope and in their 
ambition to control the Papacy were its staunchest 
defenders. But the Freemasons refused to admit the 
Papal authority, and treated all creeds with equal 
respect. War between the Church of Rome and 
Freemasonry was thus inevitable — a war that the 
Church in such a century as the eighteenth, permeated 
with scepticism and the desire for individual liberty, 
was most ill-advised to wage. For it was a war in 
which extermination was impossible and the victories 
of Rome indecisive. 

Anathematized by Clement XII, persecuted in 
Spain by the Inquisition, penalized in Catholic 



Germany by the law, and its members decreed 
worthy of eternal damnation by the Sorbonne in 
France, Freemasonry nevertheless managed to find 
powerful champions. Entrenched behind the thrones 
of Protestant Europe, particularly that of Frederick 
the Great, and encouraged by the philosophers who 
saw in it something more than a Protestant challenge 
to the Church of Rome, it became the rallying ground 
of all the forces of discontent and disaffection of the 
century, the arsenal of all its hopes and ideals, the 
nursery of the Revolution. 

To render it, if possible, suspect even to its patrons 
Rome denied the humanity of its aims and the boasted 
antiquity of its origin. According to the stories 
circulated by the priests, which excited by their 
fears existed solely in their imagination, the Freemasons 
were the successors of the old Knights Templars sworn 
to avenge the abolition of that order by the bull of 
Pope Clement V and the death of its Grand Master, 
Jacques Molay, burnt alive by King Philip the Fair in 
the fourteenth century. But their vengeance was not 
to be limited to the destruction of the Papacy and the 
French monarchy ; it included that of all altars and 
all thrones.^ 

This tradition, however, continually repeated and 
rendered more and more mysterious and alarming by 
rumour, merely helped to articulate the hatred of the 
enemies of the old rdgime who had flocked to Free- 
masonry as to a camp. As this association had at this 
period of its history no homogeneity, it was possible for 

^ One of the symbols of the Masons was a cross on which were 
the letters L.P.D. which were interpreted by the priests to mean 
Lilia Pedibus Destrue, Trample the Lilies under-foot. 

1 08 

Eighteenth Century Occultism 

anybody with a few followers to form a lodge, 
and for each lodge to be a distinct society united 
to Freemasonry by the community of signs and 
symbols. It thus became a vast confederation of 
independent lodges representing all sorts of opinions, 
often hostile to one another, and possessing each 
its own '* rite " or constitution. Philosophy and 
occultism alike both found a shelter in it. Even 
Saint-Martin left his mystic solitude to found lodges 
which observed the '' Swedenborg rite." 

To attach themselves to the Freemasons was 
therefore for the Illumines as easy as it was natural. 
Lodges of Illuminism were founded all over Germany. 
The number and variety of sects, however, that had 
found an asylum in Freemasonry by the diversity of 
their aims tended to weaken rather than strengthen 
the association. At length, the discovery that 
impostors, like Schropfer, Rosicrucians and even 
Jesuits had founded lodges led to a general council 
of Freemasons for the purpose of giving the society 
the homogeneity it lacked. With this object a 
convention of Masons was held at Wilhelmsbad in 
1782 to which deputies were sent from all parts of 
Europe. Knigge and Weishaupt attended and, per- 
ceiving the vast possibilities of the consolidation of 
the sects, they endeavoured to capture the whole 
machinery of the organization for the Illumines, much 
as the Socialists of to-day have endeavoured to capture 
the Trades Unions. 

The intrigue, however, not only failed, but led to 
a misunderstanding between the chiefs of Illuminism. 
Knigge definitely withdrew from the society, the 
existence and revolutionary aims of which were 



betrayed two years later, in 1 784, by a member who 
had reached the highest grade, only to discover that 
the mystic secrets by which he had been attracted to 
the Illumines did not exist. This information conveyed 
to the Bavarian government was confirmed by 
domiciliary visits of the police who seized many 
incriminating papers. Weishaupt fled to Gotha, 
where he found a protector in the occultist Duke, 
whose friendship he had nursed for years in view of 
just such a contingency. 

But though the society he had formed was broken 
up, it was too late to stamp out the fire it had kindled. 
The subterranean rumblings of the Revolution could 
already be heard. Mysticism which had made use of 
philosophy in France to sap tyranny was in its turn in 
Germany turned to political account. From the seeds 
sown by the Illumines sprang that amazing crop of 
ideals of which a few years later Napoleon was to reap 
the benefit. 

Such, then, was the "curtain" of Cagliostro; 
woven, so to speak, on the loom of the love-of-the- 
marvellous out of mystical masonic principles and 
Schropfer-Mesmer phenomena. 

And now let us turn once more to the personality 
of the man behind it. 





Before leaving England, during an interlude in 
the persecution to which he had been subjected, 
Cagliostro had become a Freemason. This event, 
innocent enough in itself, though destined years later 
to have such terrible consequences for him, occurred 
on April 12, 1777. The lodge he joined was the 
Esperance, which met in a room of the King's Head 
in Gerard Street, Soho. 

According to the Editor of the Courier de r Europe, 
who professed to have obtained the particulars of his 
admission and initiation from an eye-witness, the 
Count on this occasion described himself as '' Joseph 
Cagliostro, Colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Branden- 
burg."^ Three other members were received at the 
same time : Pierre Boileau, a valet ; Count Ricciarelli, 
"musician and alchemist, aged seventy-six"; and the 
Countess Cagliostro. 

There was a full attendance of members, ^'Brother " 
Hardivilliers, an upholsterer, presiding. Out of 

1 This statement rests solely on the word of the Editor of the 
Courier de V Europe, who cited it as one of his reasons for identifying 
Cagliostro with Balsamo. The latter, it may be recalled, had passed 
as a colonel in the Prussian service during the time he was connected 
with the forger Agliata. 



courtesy to her sex the Countess was received first. 
Her Initiation consisted in taking the prescribed oath, 
after which *'she was given a garter on which the 
device of the lodge, Union, Silence, Virtue, was 
embroidered, and ordered to wear it on going to bed 
that night." 

The ceremony, however, of making the *' Colonel 
of the 3rd Regiment of Brandenburg " a Freemason 
was characterized by the horseplay usual on such 
occasions. By means of a rope attached to the ceiling 
the ** Colonel" was hoisted into the air, and allowed 
to drop suddenly to the floor — an idiotic species of 
buffoonery that entailed unintentionally a slight injury 
to his hand. His eyes were then bandaged, and a 
loaded pistol having been given him, he was ordered 
by " Brother " Hardivilliers to blow out his brains. 
As he not unnaturally manifested a lively repugnance 
to pull the trigger he was assailed with cries of 
" coward " by the assembly. " To give him courage " 
the president made him take the oath. It was as 
follows — 

''I, Joseph Cagliostro, in presence of the great 
Architect of the Universe and my superiors In this 
respectable assembly, promise to do all that I am 
ordered, and bind myself under penalties known only 
to my superiors to obey them blindly without question- 
ing their motives or seeking to discover the secret of 
the mysteries In which I shall be initiated either by 
word, sign, or writing." 

The pistol — an unloaded one this time — was again 
put into his hand. Reassured, but still trembling, he 
placed the muzzle to his temple and pulled the trigger. 
At the same time he heard the report of another pistol, 


Masked and Unmasked 

received a blow on the head, and tearing the bandage 
from his eyes found himself — a Freemason ! ^ 

To make these perfectly harmless particulars, 
which were published by the Editor of the Courier de 
rEurope with the express purpose of damaging 
Cagliostro, appear detrimental, their malignant author 
cites the menial occupations of the members of the 
Esperance Lodge, who were chiefly petty tradesmen 
and servants of foreign birth, as indicative of the low 
origin and questionable status of the self-styled Count. 
Such a reproach from its manifest absurdity is scarcely 
worth repeating. If any inference is to be drawn 
from Cagliostro's association with the hairdressers 
and upholsterers, the valets and shoemakers, of whom 
the Esperance Lodge chiefly consisted, it is to be 
drawn from the character of his lodge, and certainly not 
from the occupations of his brother masons. 

The Order of Strict Observance, to which the 
Esperance Lodge was affiliated, was one of the many 
secret societies grafted on to Freemasonry in the 
eighteenth century. It had been founded in the 
middle of the century in Germany by a Baron von 
Hundt with the object of reviving the Order of the 
Knights Templar, who were regarded by the seditious 
as classic victims of papal and monarchical tyranny.^ 
Hundt's Order of Strict Observance, however, at the 
beginning at any rate, was the very opposite of a 

^ His diploma, for which he paid five guineas, was formerly in 
the celebrated collection of autographs belonging to the Marquis de 

2 As mentioned in the previous chapter, the Order of the 
Knights Templar was suppressed in the fourteenth century by Pope 
Clement V, Jacques Molay, the Grand Master, being burnt alive by 
King Philip the Fair of France. 

I 113 


revolutionary character; though to the Church of 
Rome, aware that it perpetuated the tradition of the 
Templars, it was none the less anathema. To this 
fact the stories may be traced which caused Free- 
masonry as a whole to be suspected of conspiring to 
*' trample the lilies under- foot." 

In England the Order of Strict Observance was 
purely philanthropic and social, though there, as else- 
where, it was steeped in occultism — a fact which of 
itself is quite sufficient to explain why Cagliostro 
joined the Esperance Lodge. The importance, more- 
over, acquired by this masonic order, whose lodges 
were scattered all over Europe, also explains the 
comparative ease with which he afterwards exploited 
the curiosity his remarkable faculties aroused. 

The precise manner, however, in which he laid 
the foundations of his fame can only be conjectured. 
Between November 1777, when Cagliostro left 
England unknown and • impoverished, and March 
1779, when he arrived in Courland to be received 
into the highest society, his movements are wrapped 
in mystery. 

** My fifty guineas," he says, "which was all that 
I possessed on leaving London, took me as far as 
Brussels, where I found Providence waiting to 
replenish my purse." 

As he did not deign to enlighten the public as to 
the guise in which Providence met him, his Inquisi- 
tion-biographer, who is always prejudiced and 
generally unreliable, was of the opinion that it was 
highly discreditable. This authority states that he pro- 
cured money from a credulous man whom he duped 
into believing he could predict the winning number in a 


Masked and Unmasked 

lottery, and that without waiting to learn the result 
of his prediction — which, on this occasion, in spite of 
his previous uniform success in London, was a failure — 
fled to the Hague. 

Whilst here, so it was rumoured years later, he 
was admitted as a Freemason into a lodge of the 
Order of Strict Observance, to the members of which 
he made a speech on Egyptian Masonry. As a result 
of the interest he aroused, a lodge was founded in 
accordance with the Egyptian Rite, open to both 
sexes, and of which the Countess was appointed 
Grand Mistress. 

The Inquisition-biographer professes to discover 
him next in Venice, *'from which he fled after swindling 
a merchant out of one thousand sequins." But as he 
is described as calling himself at the time Marquis 
Pellegrini — one of the aliases under which Giuseppe 
Balsamo had masqueraded some years previously, he 
may be acquitted of the charge. If Cagliostro was 
really Balsamo it is inconceivable that he would have 
returned to Italy under a name he had rendered so 
notorious. The incident, if it has any foundation in 
fact, must have occurred several years before this date. 
Moreover, if Cagliostro and Balsamo are the same, 
Freemasonry must have wrought a most remarkable 
and unprecedented spiritual reformation in the character 
of the Sicilian crook, for under the name of Count 
Cagliostro he most certainly ceased to descend to the 
vulgar villainies formerly habitual to him. 

Much more in keeping with Cagllostro's character 

is the following adventure reported to have befallen 

him at Nuremburg, whither rumour next traces him. 

Being asked his name by a Freemason who was 

12 115 


staying at the same hotel, and to whom he had 
communicated the fact that he was also a member of 
the same fraternity by one of the secret signs 
familiar to the initiated, he replied by drawing on a 
sheet of paper a serpent biting its tail. This cryptic 
response, coupled with the air of mystery Cagliostro 
habitually gave to his smallest action, deeply impressed 
the inquisitive stranger, who with the characteristic 
superstition of the century at once jumped to the 
conclusion that he was in the presence of the chief of 
one of the secret societies attached to Freemasonry 
who, fleeing from persecution, was obliged to conceal 
his identity. Accordingly, with a sentimental benevo- 
lence — from which it may be inferred he was both a 
Mason and a German — '* he drew from his hand a 
diamond ring, and pressing it upon Cagliostro with 
every mark of respect, expressed the hope that it 
might enable him more easily to elude his enemies." 

From Nuremburg rumour follows the Count to 
Berlin, where the interpretation the unsentimental 
police of Frederick the Great put upon the mystery 
in which he enveloped himself was so hostile that 
he hastened to Leipsic. In this town, veritable home 
of occultism and stage on which Schropfer a few years 
before had persuaded his audience to believe in him in 
spite of his impostures, any mysterious person was 
sure of a welcome. The voice of rumour, hitherto 
reduced to a whisper, now becomes audible. The 
Freemasons of the Order of Strict Observance are 
said to have given a banquet in Cagliostro's honour 
"at which three plates, three bottles, and three glasses 
were set before each guest in commemoration of the 
Holy Trinity." 


Masked and Unmasked 

After the repast the Count made a speech, to the 
eloquence of which and its effect on his hearers the 
mystic triad of bottles would appear to have contributed. 
As at the Hague, he discoursed on Egyptian Masonry ; 
praised the superiority of its ideals and rites to those 
of the lodge of which he was the guest ; and carried 
away by bibulous enthusiasm, which caused him to 
ignore the rules of politeness and good breeding, he 
turned impressively to the head of the lodge — one 
Scieffort — and in impassioned accents informed him 
that if he did not adopt the Egyptian Rite " he would 
feel the weight of the hand of God before the 
expiration of the month." 

The fact that Scieffort^ committed suicide a few 
days later was regarded as a fulfilment of this 
prophecy, which from the strange manner and 
appearance of the mysterious person who uttered it 
produced a deep impression. At once all Leipsic 
began to ring with the name of Count Cagliostro and 
his gift of prophecy. It was his first step on the road 
to fame. "On leaving the city," says the Inquisition- 
biographer, *' not only did his admirers pay his hotel 
bill, but they presented him with a considerable sum 
of money." 

Henceforth, wherever he went he was sure of a 
cordial reception in the lodges of the Order of Strict 
Observance. By the Freemasons of Dantzic and 
Konigsberg he appears to have been treated as a 
person of great distinction. As the lodges of the 

1 Schropfer's name is generally associated with this prediction. As 
he died, however, in 1774, nearly five years before — a date easily 
ascertainable — some idea may be gathered of the slight importance 
most writers on Cagliostro have attached to accuracy. 



Order in these cities were wholly given up to the 
practice and study of occult phenomena he must, no 
doubt, have furnished them with some proof of his 
possession of *' supernatural" faculties. 

In this way, recommended from lodge to lodge, he 
reached Mittau, the capital of the Duchy of Courland, 
in March 1779. Here the cloud of uncertainty in 
which he had been enveloped since leaving England 
was completely dispelled. 


Now one does not go to Courland without a reason, 
and a powerful one. Marshal Saxe, the only other 
celebrity one recalls in connection with this bleak, 
marshland duchy of Germanized Letts on the Baltic, 
was lured thither by its crown. Cagliostro too had his 
reason — which was not Saxes ; though the ridiculous 
Inquisition-biographer, remembering that the crown 
of Courland had been worn by more than one 
adventurer within the memory of the generation 
then living, declares that there was a project to 
depose the reigning duke and put Cagliostro in his 

As a matter of fact, Cagliostro went to Courland 
to further his great scheme of founding the Order of 
Egyptian Masonry. This was the thought uppermost 
in his mind from the time he left England, or at least 
the one most frequently expressed. 

The idea of Egyptian Masonry is said to have 
been suggested to him by some unpublished manu- 
scripts that he purchased while in London. He 
himself, on the contrary, professed to have conceived 



Masked and Unmasked 

it in Egypt during his travels in the East, of which he 
gave such an amazing account at his trial in the 
Diamond Necklace Affair. It is the spirit, however, 
in which the idea was conceived that is of chief 
importance, and this seems to have been wholly- 
creditable to him. 

For in spite of the vanity and ostentation he 
exhibited when his star was in the ascendant 
Cagliostro, whose ''bump of benevolence " was highly 
developed, was inspired with a genuine enthusiasm for 
the cause of humanity. Egyptian Masonry had for 
its aim the moral regeneration of mankind. As the 
revelations made to men by the Creator (of whom he 
never failed to speak with the profoundest respect) 
had, in his opinion, been altered to subserve their own 
purposes by the prophets, apostles, and fathers of the 
Church, the regeneration of mankind was only to be 
accomplished by restoring the knowledge of God in all 
its purity. This Cagliostro professed was only to be 
effected by Egyptian Masonry, which he declared had 
been founded by the patriarchs, whom he regarded as 
the last and sole depositaries of the truth, as the means 
of communicating with the invisible world. 

That he really believed it was his mission to 
re-establish this communication there can be no doubt. 
Even Carlyle's conception of him as a '' king of 
liars " only serves to emphasize this. For since it is 
generally admitted that the habitual liar is in the end 
persuaded of the truth of what he says, there is no 
reason why the '* king " of the tribe should be an 
exception. Had Cagliostro, therefore, in the beginning 
known that the religion he preached was a lie — of 
which I can find no evidence whatever — he was most 



certainly convinced of its truth in the end. In France, 
where his following was most numerous, the delegates 
of the French lodges, after hearing him, declared in 
their report that they had seen in him **a promise 
of truth which none of the great masters had so 
completely developed before." 

If it be true that a man's works are the key to 
his character, nothing reveals that of Cagliostro more 
clearly than his system of Egyptian Masonry. Never 
did the welfare of humanity, sublimest of ideals, find 
more ridiculous expression. But to describe in 
detail the astonishing galimathias of this system for 
the regeneration of mankind would be as tedious as 
it is unnecessary, and the following rough outline 
must serve to illustrate the constitution and ceremonies 
of the Egyptian Rite. 

Both sexes were alike eligible for admission to the 
Egyptian Rite, the sole conditions being belief in the 
immortality of the soul and — as regards men — previous 
admission to some Masonic Lodge. There were, as in 
ordinary Freemasonry, three grades : apprentice, com- 
panion, and master Egyptian. The master Egyptians 
were called by the names of the Hebrew prophets, while 
the women of the same grade took those of sibyls. 

Cagliostro himself assumed the title of Grand 
Cophta, which he declared to be that of Enoch, the 
first Grand Master of Egyptian Masonry. His wife, 
as Grand Mistress, was known as the Queen of 

The initiations of the neophytes consisted of being 
" breathed upon " by the Grand Master or Grand 
Mistress, according to their sex. This proceeding was 
accompanied by the swinging of censers and a species of 


Masked and Unmasked 

exorcism that served as a preparation for moral 
regeneration. The Grand Cophta then made a short 
speech, which he also addressed to the members on 
their promotion from one grade to the other, ending 
with the words '' Helios, Mene, Tetragammaton." 

Concerning the apparent gibberish of these words, 
the Marquis de Luchet, a clever writer of the day 
who never hesitated to sacrifice truth to effect, and 
found in Cagliostro a splendid target for his wit, 
pretends that '' the Grand Cophta borrowed them 
from a conjurer, who in his turn had been taught them 
by a spirit, which spirit was no other than the soul of 
a cabalistic Jew who had murdered his own father." 
As a matter of fact they are often employed in Free- 
masonry and signify the Sun, the Moon, and the four 
letters by which God is designated in Hebrew. 

The ceremony of initiation concluded with a sort 
of spiritualistic stance, for which a very young boy or 
girl, known respectively as a pupille or colombe was 
chosen as the medium, whom the Grand Cophta 
rendered clairvoyant by '' breathing on its face from 
the brow to the chin." 

The same rites were observed for both sexes. At 
the initiation of women, however, the Veni Creator 
and Miserere mei Deus were chanted. On these 
occasions the Grand Mistress drank ''a draught of 
immortality," and *' the shade of Moses was evoked." 
Moses, however, persistently refused to be evoked, 
because — so the Countess is reported to have con- 
fessed to the Inquisitors — *' Cagliostro considered him 
a thief for having carried off the treasures of the 

As the promise of spiritual health was not of itself 



sufficient to ensure the success of Egyptian Masonry, 
Cagliostro in the course of time found it expedient to 
heighten its attraction by holding" out hopes of bodily 
health, and infinite wealth as well. It was by his 
ability to cure the sick that the majority of his 
followers were recruited ; and as he gave to his marvel- 
lous cures the same mysterious and absurd character as 
he gave to all his actions, his enemies — of whom he had 
many — unable to explain or deny them, endeavoured 
to turn the "physical regeneration" that Egyptian 
Masonry was said to effect into ridicule. 

According to a curious and satirical prospectus 
entitled *' The Secret of Regeneration or Physical Per- 
fection by which one can attain to the spirituality of 5557 
years (Insurance Office of the Great Cagliostro)," he 
who aspired to such a state " must withdraw every 
fifty years in the month of May at the full of the moon 
into the country with a friend, and there shutting him- 
self in a room conform for forty days to the most 
rigorous diet." 

The medical treatment was no less heroic. On 
the seventeenth day after being bled the patient was 
given a phial of some ** white liquid, or primitive 
matter, created by God to render man immortal," of 
which he was to take a certain number of drops up to 
the thirty-second day. The candidate for physical 
regeneration was then bled again and put to bed 
wrapped in a blanket, when — if he had the courage to 
continue with the treatment — he would " lose his hair, 
skin, and teeth," but would recover them and find him- 
self in possession of youth and health on the fortieth 
day — " after which he need not, unless he liked, shuffle 
ofTthe mortal coil for 5557 years," 


Masked and Unmasked 

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the boundless 
credulity which characterized the period immediately 
preceding the French Revolution than the belief 
that this report, intended as a conte pour rire by 
the Marquis de Luchet, its author, obtained. As 
Cagliostro and his followers were very likely aware 
that any attempt to deny such a statement would but 
serve to provide their enemies with fresh weapons of 
attack, they endured the ridicule to which this malicious 
invention subjected them in silence. This attitude, 
however, was not only misunderstood by the public, 
but has even misled historians of a later date, very few 
of whom, like Figuier in his Histoire du Merveilleux, 
have had the wit to see the humour of the lampoon 
which they have been too careless or too prejudiced 
to explain. 

As a matter of fact, the mumbo-jumbo of the 
Egyptian Rite was no more grotesque than the 
Swedenborgian, Rosicrucian, or any other of the 
numerous rites that were grafted on to Freemasonry in 
the eighteenth century. If the Baron von Gleichen, 
whose integrity was as irreproachable as his experi- 
ence was wide, is to be credited, '' CagHostro's Egyptian 
Masonry was worth the lot of them, for he tried to 
render it, not only more wonderful, but more honourable 
than any other Masonic order in Europe." 

Considered as the key to CagHostro's character, 
Egyptian Masonry so far fits the lock, so to speak. 
To turn the key, it is necessary to explain the means 
he employed to realize the sublime ideal he expressed 
so ridiculously. 

It is characteristic of the tyranny of ideals to 
demand their realization of the enthusiast, if need be 



at the cost of life, honour, or happiness. All reformers 
magnetic enough to attract any notice have been 
obliged to face this lion-like temptation at some time 
in their careers. The perfervid ones almost always 
yield to it, and may count themselves lucky if the 
sacrifice of their happiness is all that is asked of them. 
The nature of the surrender is governed entirely by 
circumstances. Cagliostro paid for his attempt to 
regenerate mankind with his honour. It was an 
excessive price, and — considering the result obtained — 

As he did not hesitate to recruit his followers by 
imposture when without it he would have failed to 
attract them, many writers — and they are the most 
hostile — have denied that he ever had a lofty ideal 
at all. To them Egyptian Masonry is merely a device 
of Cagliostro to obtain money. Such an opinion, 
however, is as untenable as it is intentionally unjust. 

There is not a single authenticated instance in which 
he derived personal profit by imposture. 

Had he succeeded, like Swedenborg — who had a 
precisely similar ideal, and also had recourse to im- 
posture when it suited his purpose — his reputation, 
like the Swede's, would have survived the calum.ny 
that assailed it.^ For though Cagliostro debased his 
ideal to realize it, his impostures did not make him an 
impostor, any more than Mirabeau can be said to 

1 The stories told of Swedenborg are quite as fantastic as any 
concerning Cagliostro. " He was walking," says Brittan in The 
Shekinah, "one day along Cheapside with a friend, a person of great 
worth and credit (who afterwards related the incident), when he was 
suddenly seen to bow very low to the ground. To his companion's 
question as to what he was about, Swedenborg replied by asking him 
if he had not seen Moses pass by, and that he was bowing to him." 


Masked and Unmasked 

have been bought by the bribes he accepted from 
the Court. 

His impostures consisted (i) in exhibiting his 
occult powers — which in the beginning he had not 
developed — on occasions and under conditions he 
knew to be opposed to their operation, whereby to 
obtain results he was obliged to forge them, and (2) 
in attributing to a supernatural cause all the wonders 
he performed as well as the "mysteries" of the 
Egyptian Rite, in which mesmerism, magnetism and 
ordinary conjuring tricks were undoubtedly employed. 

As the establishment of Egyptian Masonry was 
the object he had in view, he no doubt believed with 
his century that the end justifies the means. But to 
those who shape their conduct according to this 
passionate maxim it becomes a two-edged sword that 
seldom fails to wound him who handles it. The end 
that is justified by the means becomes of necessity of 
secondary importance, and eventually, perhaps, of no 
importance at all. This was the case with Cagliostro s 
ideal. In rendering it subservient to the magic which 
it was originally part of its object to suppress, the 
latter gained and kept the upper hand. The means 
by which his ideal was to be realized became thus, 
as justifying means are capable of becoming, ignoble ; 
and by robbing their end of its sublimity made that 
end appear equally questionable. That Cagliostro 
perceived the danger of this, and struggled hard to 
avert it, is abundantly proved by his conduct on 
numerous occasions. 

At the start, indeed, imposture was the very last 
thing he contemplated. His strong objection to pre- 
dicting winning numbers in lotteries was the cause of 



all his trouble in London. From the Hague to Mittau 
— wherever a glimpse of him is to be had — there is a 
reference to the ''eloquence with which he denounced 
the magic and satanism to which the German lodges 
were addicted." It was not till he arrived in Courland 
that his repugnance for the supercheries of supernatural- 
ism succumbed to the stronger forces of vanity and 


If "Providence waited for Cagliostro at Brussels," 
it was certainly Luck that met him on his arrival at 

As hitherto the cause of Egyptian Masonry does 
not appear to have derived any material benefit from 
the great interest he is said to have excited in Leipsic 
and other places, it seems reasonable to infer that the 
lodges he frequented were composed of bourgeois or 
uninfluential persons. At Mittau, however, the lodge 
to which he was admitted, addicted like the others to 
the study of the occult, consisted of people of the 
highest distinction who, advised in advance of the 
coming of the mysterious Count, were waiting to 
receive him with open arms. 

The great family of von Medem in particular 
treated him with the greatest consideration, and in 
them he found at once congenial and influential 
friends. Marshal von Medem was the head of the 
Masonic lodge in Mittau, and from boyhood had 
made a special study of magic and alchemy, as had 
his brother Count von Medem. This latter had 
two very beautiful and accomplished daughters, the 
youngest of whom was married to the reigning Duke 


Masked and Unmasked 

of Courland — a fact that could not fail to impress a 
regenerator of mankind in quest of powerful disciples. 

It was, however, her sister Elisa, Count von 
Medem's eldest daughter, who became the point 
dappui of Cagliostro's hopes. 

The mystical tendencies of Elisa were entirely due 
to environment. She had grown up in an atmosphere 
in which magic, alchemy, and the dreams of Sweden- 
borg were the principal topics of conversation. 
Familiarity, however, as the saying is, bred contempt. 
In her childhood she declared that the wonders of the 
supernatural which she heard continually discussed 
around her, ** made less impression on her than the 
tale of Blue Beard, while a concert was worth all the 
ghosts in the world." Nevertheless, the occult was 
not without a subtle effect on her mind. As a girl she 
had a decided preference for books of a mystic or 
religious character, her favourites being ''Young's 
Night Thoughts and the works of Lavater." 

Gifted with an exceptionally brilliant intellect, of 
which she afterwards gave unmistakable proof, she also 
possessed a most enthusiastic and affectionate nature — 
qualities that her husband, a Count von der Recke, 
alone appears to have neither recognized nor appreci- 
ated. Their union was of short duration : after six 
years of wedlock the Countess von der Recke, who 
had married at seventeen to please her father, obtained 
a divorce. She was amply compensated for what she 
had suffered by the affection she obtained from her 
family. Father, uncles, aunts, cousins seemed only to 
exist to study her wishes. Her sister, the Duchess 
of Courland, constantly sought her advice in political 
matters, and regarded her always as her dearest friend. 



But It was to her young brother to whom she was 
most deeply attached. Nor was he less devoted to 
her. Nearly of the same age,»and possessing the 
same temperament and talents, the sympathy between 
them was such that '' one was but the echo of the other." 
They differed only in one respect. Equally serious 
and reflective, each longed to solve the '* problems of 
existence " ; but while the Countess von der Recke 
was led to seek their solution in the Bible, in the gospel 
according to Swedenborg, or in the correspondence 
she formed with Lavater, her brother thought they 
were to be found '* in Plato and Pythagoras." Death, 
however, prematurely interrupted his quest, carrying 
with him to the grave the ambition of his father and 
the heart of his sister. 

It was at this moment, when she was over- 
whelmed with grief, that Count Cagliostro arrived in 
Mittau, with the reputation of being able to transmute 
metals, predict the future, and communicate with the 
unseen world. Might he not also evoke the spirits 
of the dead ? In any case, such a man was not to be 
ignored. Mittau was a dead-and-alive place at the 
best of times, the broken-hearted Countess was only 
twenty-five, the ''problems of existence" might still 
be solved — and workers of wonders, be they impostors 
or not, are not met every day. So the Countess von 
der Recke was determined to meet the '' Spanish " 
Count, and — what is more to the point — to believe in 

As usual, on his arrival in Mittau, Cagliostro had 
denounced the excessive rage for magic and alchemy 
that the Freemasons of Courland, as elsewhere, dis- 
played. But though he found a sympathetic listener 


■jCAr^ JeiJioM f> 


(.After Seibold ) 

Masked and Unmasked 

in the Countess von der Recke while he discoursed 
mystically on the moral regeneration of mankind and 
the '* Eternal Source of all Good," her father and uncle, 
who were devoted to magic and manifestations of the 
occult, demanded practical proofs of the power he was 
said to possess. As he was relying on their powerful 
patronage to overcome the opposition unexpectedly 
raised to the foundation of an Egyptian Lodge at 
Mittau by some persons whose suspicions were excited 
by the mystery he affected, he did not dare disoblige 

One day, after conversing on magic and necro- 
mancy with the von Medems, he gave them and a 
certain Herr von Howen a proof of his occult powers. 
Apart from his ** miraculous " cures, nearly all the 
prodigies performed by Cagliostro were of a clair- 
voyant nature. As previously stated, in these exhibi- 
tions he always worked through a medium, known as 
dipupille or colombe, according to the sex — xh&pupilles 
being males and the colombes females. From the fact 
that they were invariably very young children, he 
probably found that they responded more readily to 
hypnotic suggestion than adults. Though these 
exhibitions were often impostures (that is, arranged 
beforehand with the medium) they were as often un- 
doubtedly genuine (that is, not previously arranged, and 
baffling explanation). In every case they were accom- 
panied by strange rites designed to startle the imagina- 
tion of the onlooker and prepare it to receive a deep 
and durable impression of mystery. 

On this occasion, according to the Countess von 
der Recke, Cagliostro selected as pupille the little son 
of Marshal von Medem, ** a child of five." '' Having 
K 129 


anointed the head and left hand of the child with the 
'oil of wisdom,' he inscribed some mystic letters on 
the anointed hand and bade the pupille to look at it 
steadily. Hymns and prayers then followed, till little 
von Medem became greatly agitated and perspired 
profusely. Cagliostro then inquired in a stage whisper 
of the Marshal what he desired his son to see. Not to 
frighten him, his father requested he might see his 
sister. Hereupon the child, still gazing steadfastly at 
his hand, declared he saw her. 

" Questioned as to what she was doing, he 
described her as placing her hand on her heart, as if 
in pain. A moment later he exclaimed, ' now she is 
kissing my brother, who has just come home.' On the 
Marshal declaring this to be impossible, as this brother 
was leagues away, Cagliostro terminated the stance, 
and with an air of the greatest confidence ordered 
the doubting parent ' to verify the vision.' This the 
Marshal immediately proceeded to do ; and learnt that 
his son, whom he believed so far away, had unexpect- 
edly returned home, and that shortly before her 
brother's arrival his daughter had had an attack of 
palpitation of the heart." 

After proof so conclusive Cagliostro's triumph was 
assured. Those who mistrusted him were completely 
silenced, and all further opposition to the foundation of 
his lodge ceased. 

But the appetite of the von Medem brothers only 
grew by what it fed upon. They insisted on more 
wonders, and to oblige them '' the representative of the 
Grand Cophta " — later he found it simpler to assume in 
person the title and prerogatives of the successor of 
Enoch — held another stance. Aware that he had to 


Masked and Unmasked 

please people over whose minds the visions of Sweden- 
borg had gained such an ascendency that everything 
that was fantastic appeared supernatural to them, he 
had recourse to the cheap devices of magic and the 
abracadabra of black art. 

At a meeting of the lodge he declared that " he had 
been informed by his chiefs of a place where most im- 
portant magical manuscripts and instruments, as well 
as a treasure of gold and silver, had been buried 
hundreds of years before by a great wizard." Ques- 
tioned as to the locality of this place, he indicated a 
certain heath on the Marshal's estate at Wilzen where- 
on he had been wont to play as a boy, and which — extra- 
ordinary coincidence ! — he remembered the peasants of 
the neighbourhood used to say contained a buried 
treasure guarded by ghosts. The Marshal and his 
brother were so astonished at Cagliostro's description 
of a place which it seemed improbable he could have 
heard of, and certainly had never seen, that they set 
out at once for Wilzen with some friends and relatives 
to find the treasure with the occult assistance of their 
mysterious guest. 

Now the Countess's interest in the occult was of 
quite a different character from that of her father and 
uncle. Deeply religious, she had turned in her grief 
to mysticism for consolation. From the commencement 
of her acquaintance with Cagliostro, she had been im- 
pressed as much by the nobility of the aims he attri- 
buted to his Egyptian Masonry, of which he spoke "in 
high-flown, picturesque language," as by his miraculous 
gifts. While others conversed with him on magic and 
necromancy, which she regarded as ''devilish," she 
talked of the " union of the physical and spiritual 
K2 131 


worlds, the power of prayer, and the miracles of the 
early Christians." She told him how the death of 
her brother had robbed her life of happiness, and that 
in the hope of seeing him once more she had often spent 
a long time in prayer and meditation beside his grave 
at night. And she also gave the Grand Cophta to 
understand that she counted on him to gratify this 


As to confess his utter inability to oblige her would 
have been to rob him at one fell swoop of the belief in 
his powers on which he counted to establish a lodge 
of Egyptian Masonry at Mittau, Cagliostro evaded the 
request. His great gifts, he explained, were only to be 
exercised for the good of the world, and if he used 
them merely for the gratification of idle curiosity, he 
ran the risk of losing them altogether, or of being 
destroyed by evil spirits who were on the watch to 
take advantage of the weakness of such as he. 

But as the exhibitions he had given her father and 
uncle of his powers were purely for the benefit of idle 
curiosity, the Countess had not unnaturally reproached 
him with having exposed himself to the snares of the 
evil spirits he was so afraid of Whereupon the 
unfortunate Grand Cophta, in his desire to reform 
Freemasonry and to spread his gospel of regeneration, 
having left the straight and narrow path of denunciation 
for the broad road of compromise, sought to avoid the 
quagmire to which it led by taking the by-path of 

Conscious that his success at Mittau depended on 
keeping the Countess's esteem, he assumed an air of 
mystery and superiority when talking of the occult 
calculated to impress her with the utter insignificance 


Masked and Unmasked 

of her views in matters of which, as she admitted, she 
was ignorant. Having made her feel as small as possible, 
he endeavoured to reconcile her to the phenomena he 
performed for the benefit of her relations by holding 
out to her a hope that by similar means it might be 
possible to evoke the shade of the brother she so 
yearned to see. When next she met him, he assured 
her that ** Hanachiel," as he called his "chief" in the 
spiritual world to whom he owed his marvellous gifts, 
"had informed him that her intention was good in 
wishing to communicate with her brother, and that this 
was only to be accomplished by the study of the occult 
sciences, in which she might make rapid progress if 
she would follow his directions unquestioningly." 

In this way, like another Jason steering his Argos- 
ship of Egyptian Masonry clear of the rocks and 
quicksands, he sought to round the cape of suspicion 
and come to a safe anchorage in port. But though he 
handled the helm with consummate skill, as the Countess 
herself afterwards acknowledged, it was a perilous sea 
on which he sailed. Unquestioning obedience, the 
Countess declared, she could not promise him. 

" God Himself," she said, " could not induce me 
to act against what my conscience tells me is right and 

" Then you condemn Abraham for offering up his 
son ? " was Cagliostro's curious rejoinder. "In his 
place, what would you have done ? " 

" I would have said," replied the Countess : " * O 
God, kill Thou my son with a flash of Thy lightning if 
Thou requirest his life ; but ask me not to slay my 
child, whom I do not think guilty of death.'" 

With such a woman, what is a Cagliostro to do? 



Prevented, so to speak, by this flaw in the wind from 
coming to anchor in the harbour of her unquestioning 
faith in him, he sought to reach port by keeping up 
her hopes. To reconcile her to the magical operations 
he was obliged to perform in order to retain his 
influence upon the von Medems, he finally promised 
her a " magic dream " in which her brother would 
appear to her. 

From the manner in which Cagliostro proceeded to 
perform this phenomenon, one may obtain an idea of 
the nature and extent of his marvellous powers. As 
heretofore his effects had been produced by hypnotic 
suggestion, accompanied by every accessory calculated 
to assist it, so now he proceeded on similar lines. 
That the thoughts of others besides himself should be 
concentrated on the ''magic dream," the relations of 
the Countess, as well as herself, were duly agitated by 
its expectation. With an air of great mystery, which 
Cagliostro could make so impressive, he delivered to 
Count von Medem a sealed envelope containing, he 
said, a question, which he hoped by the dream to have 
answered. At night, before the Countess retired, he 
broke the silence which he had imposed on her and her 
relations during the day to refer once more to the 
dream, with the object of still further exciting the 
imagination of all concerned, whose thoughts were 
fixed upon the coming apparition of the dead, until 
the prophecy, like many another, worked its own 

But this cunningly contrived artifice, familiar to 
magicians in all ages, and frequently crowned with 
success, was defeated on the present occasion by the 
health of the Countess, whose nerves were so excited 


Masked and Unmasked 

by the glimpse she expected to have of her dearly 
beloved brother as to prevent her sleeping at all. 

This eventuality, however — which Cagliostro had 
no doubt allowed for — far from complicating his 
difficulties, was easily turned to advantage. For, 
upbraiding the Countess for her weakness and lack of 
self-control, he declared she need not any longer count 
on seeing her brother. Nevertheless, he dared not 
deprive her of all hope. In response to her pleading, 
and urged by her father and uncle, he was emboldened 
to promise her the dream for the ensuing night, trust- 
ing that in the condition of body and mind to which he 
perceived she was reduced by the overwrought state of her 
nerves she might even imagine she had seen her brother. 

But though the slippery road along which, impelled 
by vanity and ambition, he travelled was beset with 
danger, Cagliostro proceeded undaunted. When his 
second attempt to evoke the dead failed like the first, 
he boldly asserted that he himself had prevented the 
apparition, " being warned by Hanachiel that the vision 
of her brother would endanger the Countess's life in her 
excitable state." And to render this explanation the 
more convincing he gave the von Medems, who were 
plainly disappointed by the failure of the *' magic 
dream," one of those curious exhibitions of second 
sight which he was in the habit of knocking off — no 
other word expresses it — so frequently and successfully 
for their benefit. 

Though aware that the Countess at the moment 
was ill in bed, he declared that, if a messenger were 
sent to her house at a certain hour, he would find her 
seated at her writing-table in perfect health. This 
prediction was verified in every particular. 



Such was the state of affairs when Cagliostro 
accompanied the von Medems to Wilzen to prove the 
existence of the buried treasure he had so craftily 
located. In spite of his great confidence in himself, he 
must have realized that the task he had so rashly 
undertaken at Wilzen was one that would require 
exceptional cunning to shirk. For the chance of 
finding a treasure said to have been buried hundreds 
of years before was even smaller than that on which 
he counted of evoking the spirit of the Countess's 
brother. But in this case, strange to say, it was not 
his failure to produce the treasure, but the " magic " he 
successfully employed to conceal his failure that was to 
cause him the most concern. 


Conscious that the Countess's faith in him was 
shaken by his failure to give her the consolation she so 
greatly desired, Cagliostro requested they should travel 
in the same carriage in order that he might have the 
opportunity to clear himself of her suspicions as to his 
sincerity. The very boldness of such a request was 
sufficient to disarm her. She herself has confessed, in 
the book from which these details have been drawn, 
that **his conversation was such as to create in her 
a great reverence for his moral character, whilst his 
subtle observations on mankind in general astonished 
her as greatly as his magical operations." 

From the manner, however, in which he faced the 
difficulty, he does not appear to have been in the least 
apprehensive of the consequences of failing to surmount 
it. The Countess was once more his ardent disciple ; 


Masked and Unmasked 

the von Medems' belief in magic was proof against 
unsuccessful experiments ; and Hanachiel — invaluable 
Hanachiel — was always on hand to explain his failures 
as well as his successes. 

On arriving at Alt-Auz, as the von Medem estate 
at Wilzen was named, Cagliostro produced from his 
pocket '*a little red book, and read aloud in an un- 
known tongue." The Countess, who believed him to 
be praying, ventured to interrupt him as they drove 
through the haunted forest in which the treasure was 
said to be buried. Hereupon he cried out in wild 
zeal, " Oh, Great Architect of the Universe, help me 
to accomplish this work." A bit of theatricality that 
much impressed his companion, and which was all the 
more effective for being natural to him. 

The von Medems were eager to begin digging for 
the treasure as soon as they alighted. Cagliostro, 
however, '* after withdrawing to commune in solitude 
with Hanachiel," declared that the treasure was 
guarded by very powerful demons whom it was 
dangerous to oppose without taking due precautions. 
" To prevent them from spiriting it away without his 
knowledge " he performed a little incantation which 
was supposed to bind Hanachiel to keep an eye on 
them. The next day, to break the fall, so to speak, 
of the high hopes the von Medems had built on the 
buried treasure, he held a seance in which the infant 
medium was again the chief actor. The child — '' hold- 
ing a large iron nail," and with only a screen between 
it and the other members of the party, having pre- 
sumably been hypnotized^ by Cagliostro — described 

1 The "magic" nail held by the child has a strong family 
resemblance to Mesmer's baquet divinatoire. The famous discovery 


the site of the buried treasure, the demon that guarded 
it, the treasure itself, and ** seven angels in long 
white robes who helped Hanachiel keep an eye on 
the guardian of the treasure." At the command of 
Cagliostro the child kissed, and was kissed by, these 
angels. And to the amazement of those in the room, 
with only the screen between them and the child, the 
sound of the kisses, says the Countess von der Recke, 
could be distinctly heard. 

Similar seances took place every day during the 
eight days the von Medem party stayed at Alt-Auz. 
At one the Countess herself was induced to enter the 
" magic circle holding a magic watch in her hand," 
while the little medium, assisted by the representative 
of the Grand Cophta, in his turn assisted by Hanachiel, 
read her thoughts. 

But, unlike her father and uncle, while the im- 
pression these phenomena made upon her mind was 
profound, it was also unfavourable. Though curiosity 
caused her to witness these stances, the Countess von 
der Recke strongly disapproved of them on '' religious 
grounds." Like many another, what she could not 
explain, she regarded as evil. The phenomena she 
witnessed appeared so uncanny that she believed 
them to be directly inspired by the powers of darkness. 
At first, in her admiration of Cagliostro, she prayed 
that he might escape temptation and be preserved 
from the demons with which it was but too evident to 
her he was surrounded. When at last he declared 
that he was informed by the ever-attendant Hanachiel 

of Mesmer, it is scarcely needless to say, was merely an attempt to 
explain scientifically powers the uses of which had been known to 
alchemists from time immemorial. 


Masked and Unmasked 

that the demon who guarded the buried treasure was 
not to be propitiated without much difficulty and 
delay, it did not occur to her to doubt him. The 
wonders he had been performing daily had convinced 
her, as well as the others, of his occult powers. But 
from regarding him with reverence, she now regarded 
him with dread. 

Cagliostro, who never lost sight of the aims of 
Egyptian Masonry in the deceptions to which the 
desire to proselytize led him, was in the habit, '* before 
each of his seances, of delivering lectures that were a 
strange mixture of sublimity and frivolity." It was by 
these lectures that he unconsciously lost the respect 
of the Countess he strove so hard to preserve. One 
day, while expatiating on the times when the sons 
of God loved the daughters of men, as described in 
the Bible — which, he predicted, would return when 
mankind was morally regenerate — carried away by his 
subject he declared that, *' not only the demi-Gods of 
Greece, and Christ of Nazareth, but he himself were 
the fruit of such unions." 

Such a statement inexpressibly shocked the Coun- 
tess ; and considering that the evil spirits from whom 
she prayed he might be preserved had completely 
taken possession of him, she resolved to have no more 
to do with him. At her father's entreaty, however, 
she was persuaded to attend another seance, but as 
Cagliostro, not suspecting her defection, prefaced his 
phenomena by a discourse on " love-potions," the 
Countess was only confirmed in her resolution. 

Nevertheless, he was not the man to lose so in- 
fluential an adherent without a protest. On returning 
to Mittau he managed to a certain extent to regain 



her confidence in his sincerity. He perceived, however, 
that the interest he excited was on the wane, and 
wisely took advantage of what he knew to be the right 
moment to depart. 

Hoping by the aristocratic connections he had 
made in Mittau to gain access to the highest circles in 
Russia, he decided to go to St. Petersburg. His 
intention was received with dismay by those whom 
his magical phenomena had so astonished. The von 
Medems heaped presents on him. *' From one he 
received a gift of 800 ducats, from the other a very 
valuable diamond ring." Even the Countess von der 
Recke herself, though she made no attempt to detain 
him, proved that she at least believed him to be a man 
of honour. 

A day or two before his departure, being at some 
Court function, *'he recognized old friends in some 
large and fine pearls the Duchess of Courland was 
wearing," which, he said, reminded him of some pearls 
of his wife's that he had increased in size by a process 
known to himself and sold for the benefit of a bank- 
rupt friend in Holland. The Countess von der Recke 
hereupon desired him to do the same with hers. 
Cagliostro, however, " refused, as he was going away, 
and the operation would take too long." Nor would 
he take them with him to Russia, as the Countess 
urged, and return them when the process was com- 
plete. A striking instance of his integrity, from an 
authentic source, that his prejudiced biographers have 
always seen fit to ignore. 

If the above is characteristic of Cagliostro's honesty, 
the following episode, also related by the Countess, is 
equally characteristic of his vanity. Informing him 


Masked and Unmasked 

once that she was writing to Lavater and wished to 
give him the details of a certain conversation, he 

" Wait twelve months," said he, ** and when you 
write call me only Count C. Lavater will ask you, ' Is 
not this the Great Cagliostro ? ' and you will then be 
able to reply, ' It is.' 

J )) 

As the unfavourable opinion the Countess von der 
Recke subsequently formed of Cagliostro, whose path 
never crossed hers again, has, on account of her 
deservedly high reputation, been largely responsible 
for the hostility with which history has regarded him, 
it is but fair to explain how she came to reverse the 
favourable opinion she had previously entertained. 

The value of her evidence, indeed, rests not so 
much on her word, which nobody would dream of 
questioning, but on the manner in which she obtained 
her evidence. It was not till 1784 — five years after 
Cagliostro had left Mittau — that the Countess von der 
Recke came to regard him as an impostor. To this 
opinion she was converted by one Bode whom she 
met in Weimar and who, she says, gave her **the 
fullest information concerning Cagliostro." 

Bode was a Freemason of the Order of Strict 
Observance who had joined the Illumines and was 
intimately acquainted with Weishaupt, the founder of 
the sect. As it is generally assumed that Cagliostro 
was also an Illumine, Bode no doubt had excellent 
means of observing him. The value of his opinion, 
however, is considerably lowered by the fact that 
Cagliostro afterwards withdrew from the Illumines 
when he had succeeded in turning his connection with 



them to the account of Egyptian Masonry. Under 
the circumstances Bode, who afterwards became the 
leader of the Illumines, would not be likely to view 
Cagliostro in a favourable light. 

The fact, moreover, that it took the Countess von 
der Recke five years to make up her mind that her 
" apostle of light " was an impostor, was perhaps due 
less to any absolute faith in Bode than to the changes 
that had taken place in herself during this period. 

On recovering her health she became as pronounced 
a rationalist as she had formerly been a mystic. As 
this change occurred about, the period of her meeting 
with Bode, it may possibly account for the change in 
her opinion of Cagliostro. 

But if the manner in which the Countess came to 
regard Cagliostro as an impostor somewhat detracts 
from the importance to be attached to her opinion, 
the manner in which she made her opinion public was 
unworthy of a woman to whose character this opinion 
owes the importance attributed to it. For this '' born 
fair saint " as Carlyle calls her, waited till the Diamond 
Necklace Affair, when Cagliostro was thoroughly 
discredited, before venturing to " expose " him. 


Very curious to relate, all that is known of 
Cagliostro's visit to St. Petersburg is based on a few 
contradictory rumours of the most questionable authen- 
ticity. This is all the more remarkable considering, as 
the Countess von der Recke herself states, that he left 
Mittau in a blaze of glory, regretted, honoured, and 


Masked and Unmasked 

recommended to some of the greatest personages in 
Russia by the flower of the nobility of Courland.^ 

According to report, Cagliostro s first act in St. 
Petersburg, as everywhere else he went, was to gain 
admission to one of the lodges of Strict Observance 
and endeavour to convert the members to the 
Egyptian Rite. As experience had taught him the 
futility of attempting to recruit adherents merely by 
expounding his lofty ideal of the regeneration of man- 
kind, he had recourse to the methods he had adopted 
with such success in Mittau ; but with the most 
humiliating result. For, being apparently unable to 
procure a suitable medium, he was forced to resort to 
an expedient which was discreditable in itself and 
unworthy of his remarkable faculties. 

On this occasion his medium was a colombe, " the 
niece of an actress " in whose house the stance was 
held. There was the usual mumbo-jumbo, sword- 
waving passes, stamping of the feet, et cetera. The 
medium behind a screen gazed into a carafe of water 
and astonished the assembled company with what she 
saw there. But later in the evening while Cagliostro, 
covered with congratulations, was discoursing on the 
virtue of Egyptian Masonry and dreaming of fresh 
triumphs, the medium suddenly declared that she had 
seen nothing and that her role had been prepared 
beforehand by the Grand Cophta ! 

Cagliostro, as has been seen, was bold and 

1 As all the above-mentioned rumours — which, be it understood, 
were voiceless till the Diamond Necklace Affair — are hostile, it may 
be inferred that Cagliostro's visit to St. Petersburg was, to say the 
least, a failure. This impression is confirmed by the fact that on 
the publication of the Countess von der Recke's book, the Empress 
Catherine caused it to be translated into Russian. 



resourceful when his situation seemed utterly untenable. 
That he would have seen his prestige destroyed in 
this way without attempting to save it is far from 
likely, and though the fact that St. Petersburg is the 
only city in which Cagliostro failed to establish a lodge 
of Egyptian Masonry may be regarded as proof of 
the futility of his efforts, the nature of other rumours 
concerning him leads one to suppose that he strove 
hard to regain the ground he had lost. 

It was, no doubt, with this object that he turned 
his knowledge of medicine and chemistry to account. 
It is in St. Petersburg that he is heard of for the first 
time as a '* healer." According, however, to the 
vague and hostile rumours purporting to emanate 
from Russia at the time of the Diamond Necklace 
Affair he was a quack devoid of knowledge or 

"A bald major," says the Inquisition-biographer, 
** entrusted his head to his care, but he could not 
make a single hair grow. A blind gentleman who 
consulted him remained blind ; while a deaf Italian, 
into whose ears he dropped some liquid, became still 
more deaf." 

As a few months later Cagliostro was performing 
the most marvellous cures at Strasburg, and was for 
years visited by invalids from all over Europe, may 
we not assume that in this instance malice only 
published his failures and suppressed his successes ? 

These rumours, however, were by no means 
damaging enough to please the Marquis de Luchet, 
who had no scruples about inventing what he con- 
sidered ** characteristic" anecdotes. The following 
story drawn from his spurious Mdmoires Authentiques 
is worth repeating, less as an illustration of his 


Masked and Unmasked 

inventive powers than for the sake of nailing a popular 

"Death," he writes, ''threatened to deprive a 
Russian lady of an idolized infant aged two. She 
promised Cagliostro 5000 louis if he saved its life. 
He undertook to restore it to health in a week if she 
would suffer him to remove the babe to his house. The 
distressed mother joyfully accepted the proposal. On 
the fifth day he informed her there was a marked 
improvement, and at the end of the week declared that 
his patient was cured. Three weeks elapsed, however, 
before he would restore the child to its mother. All 
St. Petersburg rang with the news of this marvellous 
cure, and talked of the mysterious man who was able 
to cheat death of its prey. But soon it was rumoured 
that the child which was returned to the mother was 
not the one which had been taken away. The authori- 
ties looked into the matter, and Cagliostro was obliged 
to confess that the babe he restored was substituted 
for the real one, which had died. Justice demanded the 
body of the latter, but Cagliostro could not produce it. 
He had burnt it, he said, * to test the theory of 
reincarnation.' Ordered to repay the 5000 louis he had 
received, he offered bills of exchange on a Prussian 
banker. As he professed to be a colonel in the service 
of the King of Prussia,^ the bills were accepted, but on 
being presented for payment were dishonoured. The 
matter was therefore brought to the notice of Count 
von Goertz, the Prussian Envoy at St. Petersburg, 
who obtained an order for his arrest. This is the true 
explanation of his sudden departure." 

^ This seems to have been suggested to de Luchet by the Courier 
de r Europe^ which stated that Cagliostro, on becoming a Freemason, 
described himself as "Colonel of the Brandenburg regiment." 

^ 145 


Rumour, however, differed widely from de Luchet. 
For at the same time that de Luchet declared 
Cagliostro to be posing as a Prussian colonel he 
is also said to have donned the uniform of a colonel 
in the Spanish service, and assumed the title of 
Prince de Santa Cruce. But far from being treated 
with the respect usually paid to any high-sounding 
title and uniform in Russia, this prince-colonel doctor 
excited the suspicions of M. de Normandez, the 
Spanish charg^ d'affaires at the Russian Court, who 
demanded his passport as proof of his identity. To 
forge one would have been easy for Giuseppe Balsamo, 
who had a talent in that line, one would think. 
As he failed, however, to adopt this very simple ex- 
pedient, M. d'Almeras, his latest and least preju- 
diced biographer, is forced to the conclusion that 
*'he had long given up the profession of forger" — 
Freemasonry being responsible for his renunciation ! 
The conception of Cagliostro as Balsamo reformed by 
Freemasonry is the most singular and unconvincing 
explanation ever offered of this strange man. 

At any rate, the Prince de Santa Cruce could 
neither produce a passport nor forge one, and, hearing 
that a warrant was about to be issued for his arrest, he 
made haste to disappear. That such an adventurer 
was actually in St. Petersburg when Cagliostro was 
there is highly probable, and no doubt accounts for 
rumour confounding them several years later. But that 
Cagliostro, bearing letters of introduction from the 
greatest families in Courland, should have adopted any 
other name than that which he bore in Mittau is 

Still more absurd is the rumour that the Empress 


Masked and Unmasked 

Catherine, jealous of the attention that her favourite 
the great Potemkin — "a train-oil prince," as Carlyle 
contemptuously styles him — paid to the Countess 
Cagliostro, offered her 20,000 roubles to quit the 
country. Catherine would certainly never have paid 
any one to leave her dominions ; she had a much 
rougher way of handling those whose presence offended 
her. The Cagllostros, moreover, who went to Warsaw 
from St. Petersburg, arrived there in anything but an 
opulent condition. 

There is yet another rumour, which is at least 
probable, to the effect that Cagliostro was forced to 
leave Russia by the intrigues of Catherine's Scotch 
doctors, Rogerson and Mouncey, who were *'so en- 
raged that a stranger, and a pretended pupil of the 
school of Hermes Trismegistus to boot, should poach 
upon their preserves, that they contemplated a printed 
exposure of his quackery." It was not the last time, as 
will be seen, that Cagliostro excited the active hostility 
of the medical faculty. 

Strange to say, the Countess von der Recke, who, 
if any one, would have known the truth concerning his 
visit to St. Petersburg, fails to give any particulars. 
Perhaps there were none, after all, to give. She 
merely says : '* On his way from St. Petersburg to 
Warsaw, Cagliostro passed through Mittau, but did 
not stop. He was seen by a servant of Marshal von 
Medem, to whom he sent his greeting." 


In any case, the disgrace In which Cagliostro is 
supposed to have left St. Petersburg by no means 
L2 147 


injured him in the opinion of his former admirers in 
Courland, who, from their high position and close con- 
nection with the Russian official world, would have 
been well informed of all that befell him. For by 
one of them, as we are told on the best authority, 
he was furnished with introductions to Prince Adam 
Poninski and Count Moczinski, which he presented on 
his arrival in Warsaw. 

Now Warsaw society, like that of Mittau,was on the 
most intimate terms with the great world of St. Peters- 
burg. Had Cagliostro masqueraded in Russia as a 
bogus Prince de Santa Cruce or a swindling Prussian 
colonel, or had his wife excited the jealousy of the 
Empress Catherine, the fact would have been known 
in Warsaw — if not before he arrived there, certainly 
before he left. Of one thing we may be absolutely 
sure, the anonymous author of Cagliostro ddmasqud a 
Varsovie would not have failed to mention a scandal 
so much to the point. As a matter of fact, while 
denouncing Cagliostro as an impostor, this hostile 
witness even speaks of the "marvels he performed in 

Nothing could have been more flattering to 
Cagliostro than the welcome he received on his arrival 
in Warsaw in May 1780. Poland, like Courland, was 
one of the strongholds of Freemasonry and occultism. 
Prince Poninski, who was as great a devotee to magic 
and alchemy as the von Medems, insisted on the 
wonder-worker and his wife staying at his house. 
Finding the soil so admirably adapted to the seed he 
had to sow, Cagliostro began at once to preach the 
gospel he had so much at heart. The conversion of 
Poninski to Egyptian Masonry was followed by that of 


Masked and Unmasked 

the greater part of Polish society. Within a month of 
his arrival he had established at Warsaw a Masonic 
lodge in which the Egyptian Rite was observed. 

It was not, however, by Cagliostro's ideals that 
PoninskI and his friends were attracted, but by his 
power to gratify their craving for sensation. No specula- 
tions in pure mysticism a la Saint- Martin for them : 
they were occult materialists, and demanded of the 
supernatural practical, tangible manifestations. 

As under similar circumstances at Mittau, Cagllostro 
had found it convenient to encourage the abuses he 
had professed to denounce, he had no compunction 
about following the same course at Warsaw. But it 
evidently did not come easy to him to prostitute his 
ideal, judging from the awkwardness with which he 
adapted himself to the conditions it entailed. 

At first, apart from certain remarkable faculties he 
possessed and a sort of dilettante knowledge of magic 
and alchemy, he lacked both skill and experience. In 
Mittau, where his career as a wonder-worker may first 
fairly be said to begin, he failed as often as he suc- 
ceeded. That the phenomena he faked were not 
detected at the time was due to luck, which, to judge 
from rumour, appears almost entirely to have deserted 
him in St. Petersburg. 

In Warsaw, too, he was still far from expert. Here, 
in spite of the precautions he took, he found himself 
called upon to pass an examination in alchemy, a 
subject for which he was unprepared, and failed 

In the opinion of the indignant Pole who caught 
him " cribbing," so to speak, "if he knew a little more 
of optics, acoustics, mechanics, and physics generally ; 



if he had studied a little the tricks of Comus and 
Philadelphus, what success might he not have with his 
reputed skill in counterfeiting writing! It is only 
necessary for him to go into partnership with a ven- 
triloquist in order to play a much more important part 
than he has hitherto done. He should add to the 
trifling secrets he possesses by reading some good book 
on chemistry." 

But it is by failure that one gains experience. As 
Cagliostro was quick and intelligent, and had a ''fore- 
head of brass that nothing could abash," by the time 
he had reached Strasburg he was a past- master of the 
occult, having brought his powers to a high state of 
perfection, as well as being able, on occasion, to fake a 
phenomenon with consummate skill. 

There are two accounts of his adventures in 
Warsaw — one favourable, the other unfavourable. The 
latter, it is scarcely necessary to say, is the one by 
which he has been judged. It dates, as usual, from the 
period of the Necklace Affair — that is, six years after 
the events it describes. It is by an anonymous writer, 
who obtained his information second-hand from an 
** eye-witness, one Count M." Even Carlyle refuses 
to damn his ** Arch-Quack " on such evidence. This 
vial of vitriol, flung by an unknown and hostile hand 
at the Grand Cophta of Egyptian Masonry in his hour 
of adversity, is called Cagliostro ddmasqud a Varsovie, 

Nevertheless, contemptible and questionable though 
it is, the impression it conveys, if not the actual 
account, is confirmed by Madame Bohmer, wife of the 
jeweller in the Necklace Affair. Madame Bohmer's 
testimony is the more valuable in that it was given 
before the anonymous writer flung his vitriol. 



Masked and Unmasked 

One night in '' April 1785 " — Cagliostro then at the 
height of his fame — at a dinner-party at Madame 
Bohmer's, the conversation turned on mesmerism. The 
Countess de Lamotte, who was present, declared 
she believed in it — an opinion that her hostess did not 

''Such people," said Madame Bohmer, ''only wish 
to attract attention, like Cagliostro, who has been 
driven out of every country in which he has tried to 
make gold. The last was Poland. A person who has 
just come from there told me that he was admitted to 
Court on the strength of his knowledge of the occult, 
particularly of the philosopher's stone. There were 
some, however, who were not to be convinced without 
actual proof. Accordingly, a day was set for the 
operation, and one of the incredulous courtiers, know- 
ing that he had as an assistant a young girl, bribed 
her. I do not say this was the Countess Cagliostro, 
because I am informed that he had several [mediums] 
who travelled with him. ' Keep your eye,' said the 
girl to the courtier, ' on his thumb, which he holds in 
the hollow of his hand to conceal the piece of gold 
he will slip into the crucible.' All attention, the 
courtier heard the gold and, immediately seizing 
Cagliostro's hand, exclaimed to the King, ' Sire, didn't 
you hear ? ' The crucible was searched, and a small 
lump of gold was found, whereupon Cagliostro was 
instantly and very roughly, as I was told, flung out of 
the palace." 

The anonymous writer's "eye-witness. Count M.," 
described in detail the particulars of Cagliostro's quest 
for the philosopher's stone. According to this authority, 
he made his debut at Prince Poninski's with some 



magical seances similar to those at Mittau, adding 
sleight-of-hand tricks to his predictions and *'divina-j 
tions by colombes^ 

Unfortunately, the occultists of Warsaw were prin- 
cipally interested in the supernatural properties of the 
crucible. They were crazy on the subject of alchemy, 
and the pursuit of the secret of the transmutation of 
base metals into gold. Having bent the knee to magic, 
in which at least, by virtue of his own occult gifts, he 
could appear to advantage, Cagliostro rashly — com- 
pelled by necessity, perhaps, rather than vanity in 
this instance — assumed a knowledge of which he was 
ignorant, relying on making gold by sleight-of-hand. 

Alas ! '' Count M." had devoted his life to the sub- 
ject, of which it did not take him long to discover 
Cagliostro knew next to nothing. Indignant that one 
who had not even learnt the alphabet of alchemy 
should undertake to instruct him of all people, he laid 
the trap described by Madame Bohmer. It was not, 
however, at the Royal Palace that the exposure took 
place that caused Cagliostro to leave Poland, but at a 
country seat near Warsaw. Moreover, if we are to 
believe ** Count M.," Cagliostro did not wait to be 
exposed, but suspecting what was a- foot, ''decamped 
during the night." 

Now, on the strength of Madame Bohmer's evi- 
dence — not given by her in person, by the way, but 
quoted by the Countess de Lamotte in her defence at 
the Necklace trial — while there seems to be litde doubt 
that the statement of the anonymous '' Count M." is 


Masked and Unmasked 

substantially correct, there is, nevertheless, another — 
and a favourable — account of Cagliostro in Poland. It 
has the advantage of being neither anonymous nor 
dated, like the Countess von der Recke's book, years 
after the events it relates. It is from a letter written 
by Laborde, the Farmer-General, who happened to be 
in Warsaw when Cagliostro was there. The letter 
bears the date of 1781, which was that of the year 
after the following episodes occurred. 

"Cagliostro," writes Laborde, *'was some time at 
Warsaw, and several times had had the honour of 
meeting Stanislas Augustus. One day, as this monarch 
was expressing his great admiration for his powers, 
which appeared to him supernatural, a young lady of the 
Court who had listened attentively to him began to 
laugh, declaring that Cagliostro was nothing but an 
impostor. She said she was so certain of it that she 
would defy him to tell her certain things that had 
happened to her. 

'' The next day the King informed the Count of 
this challenge, who replied coldly that if the lady would 
meet him in the presence of His Majesty, he would 
cause her the greatest surprise she had ever known in 
her life. The proposal was accepted, and the Count 
told the lady all that she thought it impossible for him 
to know. The surprise this occasioned her caused her 
to pass so rapidly from incredulity to admiration that 
she had a burning desire to know what was to happen 
to her in the future. 

'* At first he refused to tell her, but yielding to her 
entreaty, and perhaps to gratify the curiosity of the 
King, he said — 

"You will soon make a long journey, in course of 



which your carriage will meet with an accident, and, 
whilst you are waiting for the repairs to be made, the 
manner in which you are dressed will excite such 
merriment in the crowd that you will be pelted with 
apples. You will go from there to some famous water- 
ing-place, where you will meet a man of high birth, to 
whom you will shortly afterwards be wedded. There 
will be an attempt to prevent your marriage, which will 
cause you to be foolish enough to make over to him 
your fortune. You will be married in a city in which I 
shall be, and, in spite of your efforts to see me, you will 
not succeed. You are threatened with great misfor- 
tunes, but here is a talisman by which you may avoid 
them, so long as you keep it. But if you are prevented 
from making over your fortune to your husband in 
your marriage contract you will immediately lose the 
talisman, and, the moment you cease to have it, it will 
return to my pocket wherever I may be.' 

" I do not know," continues Laborde, *' what confi- 
dence the King and the lady placed in these pre- 
dictions, but I know that they were all fulfilled. I have 
had this on the authority of several persons, as well 
as the lady herself ; also from Cagliostro, who described 
it in precisely the same words. I do not guarantee 
either its truth or its falsity, and, as I do not pretend to 
be an exact historian, I shall not Indulge in the smallest 




Of the difficulties that perpetually beset the bio- 
grapher of Cagliostro, those caused by his frequent 
disappearances from sight are the most perplexing. It 
is possible to combat prejudice — to materialize, so to 
speak, rumour, to manipulate conflicting evidence, and 
even to throw light on that which Is mysterious in his 
character. But when it is a question of filling up the 
gaps, of bridging the chasms in his career, one can 
only proceed by assumption. 

Such a chasm, and one of the deepest, occurs 
between June 26, 1780, when Cagliostro suddenly fled 
from Warsaw, and September 19, when he arrived in 
Strasburg. Even rumour lost track of him during 
this interval. The Inquisition-biographer pretends 
to discover him for a moment at Frankfort-on- 
the-Main as a secret agent of the Illumines, and, as 
an assumption, the statement is at once plausible and 

Cagliostro, as stated in a previous chapter, has 
always been supposed, on grounds that all but amount 
to proof, to have been at some period in his mysterious 
career connected with one of the revolutionary secret 
societies of Germany. This society has always been 



assumed to be the Illumines.^ If this assumption be 
true — and without it his mode of life in Strasburg is 
utterly inexplicable — his initiation could only have 
taken place at this period and, probably, at Frankfort, 
where Knigge, one of the leaders of the Illumines, had 
his head-quarters. 

As Knigge was a member of the Order of Strict 
Observance, in the lodges of which throughout Ger- 
many Cagliostro's reputation as a wonder-worker stood 
high, he had undoubtedly heard of him, if he was not 
personally acquainted with him. Knigge, moreover, 
was just the man to appreciate the possibilities of such 
a reputation in obtaining recruits for Illuminism. 
Nothing is more reasonable, then, than to assume that 
certain members of the Illumines made overtures at 
Frankfort to Cagliostro, who, one can imagine, would 
have readily accepted them as the means of recovering 
the influence and prestige he had lost in Poland. 

His initiation, according to the Inquisition-bio- 
grapher, took place in a grotto a short distance from 
the city. In the centre, on a table, was an iron chest, 
from which Knigge or his deputy took a manuscript. 
On the first page Cagliostro perceived the words " We, 
the Grand Masters of the Templars T Then followed 
the formula of an oath written in blood, to which 
eleven signatures were appended, and which signified 
that Illuminism was a conspiracy against thrones. The 
first blow was to be struck in France, and, after the 

^ As an agent of the Illumines, Cagliostro would have been quite 
free to found lodges of Egyptian Masonry. Many Egyptian 
Masons were also Illumines, notably Sarazin of Bale, the banker of 
both societies. In joining the Illumines, therefore, Cagliostro would 
not only have furthered their interests, but have received every 
assistance from them in return. 



The Conquest of the Cardinal 

fall of the monarchy, Rome was to be attacked. 
Cagliostro, moreover, learnt that the society had rami- 
fications everywhere, and possessed immense sums in 
banks in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, London, Genoa, and 
Venice. This money was furnished by an annual sub- 
scription of twenty-five livres paid by each member. 

On taking the oath, which included a vow of 
secrecy, Cagliostro is presumed to have received a 
large sum, destined to defray the expenses of propa- 
ganda, and to have proceeded immediately, in 
accordance with instructions, to Strasburg, where he 
arrived on September 19, 1780. 


From the nature of his entry into the capital of 
Alsace, it is certain that great pains had been taken in 
advance to excite public interest in him. The fabulous 
Palladium could not have been welcomed with greater 
demonstrations of joy. From early morning crowds of 
people waited on the Pont de Koehl and on both banks 
of the Rhine for the arrival of a mysterious personage 
who was reported to go from city to city healing the 
sick, working miracles, and distributing alms. In the 
crowd speculations were rife as to his mysterious origin, 
his mysterious travels in strange and remote countries, 
and of the mysterious source of his immense wealth. 
Some regarded him as one inspired, a saint or a 
prophet possessed of the gift of miracles. To others, 
the cures attributed to him were the natural result of 
his great learning and occult powers. Yet another 
group saw in him an evil genius, a devil sent into the 
world on some diabolic mission. Among these, how- 



ever — and they were not the least numerous — there 
were some more favourable to Cagliostro, and who, 
considering that after all he only did good, inferred 
logically that, if supernatural, he must be a good, rather 
than an evil, genius. 

Suddenly, speculation was silenced by the approach 
of the being who had excited it. The rumbling of 
wheels, the clatter of hoofs, the cracking of whips was 
heard, and out of a cloud of dust appeared a carriage 
drawn by six horses, and accompanied by lacqueys and 
outriders in magnificent liveries. Within rode the 
Grand Cophta, the High Priest of Mystery, with his 
''hair in a net," and wearing a blue coat covered with 
gold braid and precious stones. Bizarre though he was 
with his circus-rider's splendour, the manner in which 
he acknowledged the vivats of the crowd ^ through 
which he passed was not without dignity. His wife, 
who sat beside him, sparkling with youth, beauty, and 
diamonds, shared the curiosity he excited. It was a 
veritable triumphal progress. 

The advantage to which such an ovation could be 
turned was not to be neglected. Fond of luxury and 
aristocratic society though he was, Cagliostro was 
not the man to despise popularity in any form that it 
presented itself. Having lost the influence of the 
great, by means of whom he had counted to establish 
Egyptian Masonry, he was anxious to secure that of 
the masses. So great was the importance he attached 
to the interest he had aroused, he even took up his 

1 The story that it was interrupted by the sudden appearance of 
Marano, furiously demanding of Cagliostro the sixty ounces of gold 
that Giuseppe Balsamo had defrauded him of years before in Palermo, 
is a pure invention of the Marquis de Luchet. 


The Conquest of the Cardinal 

abode among them, ''living first over a retail tobacco- 
nist's named Quere, whose shop was in one of the 
most squalid quarters of the town, and later lodging 
with the caretaker of the canon of St. Plerre-le-Vieux." 

According to all reports, from the very day of his 
arrival in Strasburg he seemed to busy himself solely 
in doing good, regardless of cost or personal Incon- 
venience. No one, providing he was poor and unfor- 
tunate, appealed to him in vain. Hearing that an 
Italian was In prison for a debt of two hundred livres, 
Cagllostro obtained his release by paying the money 
for him, and clothed him into the bargain. Baron von 
Gleichen, who knew him well, states that he saw him, 
on being summoned to the bed-side of a sick person, 
*' run through a downpour in a very fine coat without 
stopping to take an umbrella." 

Every day he sought out the poor and infirm, 
whose distress he endeavoured to relieve not only with 
money and medicine, but '* with manifestations of 
sympathy that went to the hearts of the sufferers, and 
doubled the value of the action." Though his enemies 
did not hesitate to charge him with the most mercenary 
motives in administering his charities, they were 
obliged to admit the fact of them. Meiners, who 
thoroughly disliked him and considered him both a 
quack and a charlatan, was honest enough to acknow- 
ledge that he gave his services gratis, and even refused 
to make a profit on the sale of his remedies. 

*' For some time," says this hostile witness, *'It was 
believed that he shared with his apothecary the profits 
on the remedies he prescribed to his patients. But as 
soon as Cagllostro learnt that such suspicions were 
entertained, he not only changed his apothecary, but 



obliged the one he chose in his place, as I have been 
informed by several people, to sell his remedies at so 
low a price that the fellow made scarcely anything by 
the sale of them. 

"He would take, moreover, neither payment nor 
present for his labour. If a present was offered him of 
a sort impossible to refuse without offence, he imme- 
diately made a counter present of equal or even of 
higher value. Indeed, he not only took nothing from 
his patients, but if they were very poor he supported 
them for months ; at times even lodging them in his 
own house and feeding them from his own table." 


At first, only the poor received attention from 
Cagliostro. If a rich invalid desired his attendance he 
referred him to the regular doctors. Though such an 
attitude was well calculated to attract attention, it was 
not, as his enemies have declared, altogether prompted 
by selfish considerations. In the disdain he affected 
for the rich there was much real resentment. Through 
the rich and powerful, he had gained nothing but mor- 
tification and disgrace. The circumstances under which 
he was forced to flee from Warsaw must have wounded 
to the quick a nature in which inordinate vanity and 
generosity were so curiously blended. Of a certainty 
it was not alone the hope of turning Illuminism to the 
advantage of Egyptian Masonry that prompted him 
to join the Illumines in his hour of humiliation. In 
Illuminism, whose aim, revolutionary though it was, 
like that of Egyptian Masonry, was also inspired with 
the love of humanity, Cagliostro had seen both a 

1 60 

The Conquest of the Cardinal 

means of rehabilitation and revenge. Of studied ven- 
geance, however, he was incapable ; the disdain with 
which he treated the rich was the extent of his revenge. 
Indeed, susceptible as he was to flattery, it was not 
long before his resentment was altogether appeased. 
But though, in spite of his bitter experience, he was 
even once more tempted to court the favour of the 
great, he did so in quite a different manner. Hence- 
forth, in pandering to their love of sensation, he took 
care to give them what he saw fit, and not, as before, 
what they demanded. 

Particularly was this the case in the exhibitions he 
gave of his occult powers. If, as on previous occasions, 
he had recourse to artifice to obtain the effect he 
desired, it was not detected. It is evident that his 
unfortunate experiences in Warsaw had taught him the 
wisdom of confining himself solely to phenomena 
within his scope. No longer does one hear of stances 
arranged beforehand with the medium ; of failures, 
exposures, and humiliations. 

If from some of his prodigies the alchemists of the 
period saw in him a successor of the clever ventrilo- 
quist and prestidigitator Lascaris, from many others the 
mediums of the present day in Europe and America 
might have recognized in him their predecessor and 
even their master in table-turning, spirit-rapping, clair- 
voyance, and evocations. In a word, he was no longer 
an apprentice in magic, but an expert. 

As the manifestations of the occult of which 
Cagliostro, so to speak, made a speciality were of a 
clairvoyant character, some idea of the manner in 
which he had developed his powers may be gathered 
from the following account by a contemporary of a 
M i6i 


sdance he held in Strasburg with the customary colombe 
and carafe. # 

''Cagliostro," says this witness, ** having announced 
that he was ready to answer any question put to him, a 
lady wished to know the age of her husband. To this 
the colombe made no reply, which elicited great applause 
when the lady confessed she had no husband. Another 
lady demanded an answer to a question written in a 
sealed letter she held in her hand. The medium at 
once read in the carafe these words : * You shall not 
obtain it.' The letter was opened, the purport of the 
question being whether the commission in the army 
which the lady solicited for her son would be accorded 
her. As the reply was at least indicative of the 
question, it was received with applause. 

" A judge, however, who suspected that Cagliostro's 
answers were the result of some trick, secretly sent his 
son to his house to find out what his wife was doing at 
the time. When he had departed the father put this 
question to the Grand Cophta. The medium read 
nothing in the carafe, but a voice announced that the 
lady was playing cards with two of her neighbours. 
This mysterious voice, which was produced by no 
visible organ, terrified the company ; and when the 
son of the judge returned and confirmed the response 
of the oracle, several ladies were so frightened that 
they withdrew." 

At Strasburg he also told fortunes, and read the 
future as well as the past with an accuracy that 
astonished even the sceptical Madame d'Oberkirch. 
One of the most extraordinary instances he gave of his 
psychic power was in predicting the death of the 
Empress Maria Theresa. 


The Conquest of the Cardinal 

** He even foretold the hour at which she would 
expire," relates Madame d'Oberkirch. '' M. de Rohan 
told it to me in the evening, and it was five days after 
that the news arrived." 


It was, however, as a healer of the sick that 
Cagliostro was chiefly known in Strasburg. Sudden 
cures of illnesses, thought to be mortal or incurable, 
carried his name from mouth to mouth. The number 
of his patients increased daily. On certain days it was 
estimated that upwards of five hundred persons 
besieged the house in which he lodged, pressing one 
another to get in. From the collection of sticks and 
crutches left as a mark of gratitude by those who, 
thanks to his skill, no longer had need of them, it 
seemed as if all the cripples in Strasburg had flocked 
to consult him. 

The Farmer-General Laborde declares that 
Cagliostro attended over fifteen thousand ^ sick people 
during the three years he stayed in Strasburg, of 
whom only three died. 

One of his most remarkable cures was that of the 
secretary of the Marquis de Lasalle, the Commiandant 
of Strasburg. '* He was dying," says Gleichen, "of 
gangrene of the leg, and had been given up by the 
doctors, but Cagliostro saved him." 

On another occasion he procured a belated pater- 
nity for Sarazin, the banker of Bale, who afterwards 
became one of his most devoted adherents. No illness 

^ Motus, another contemporary, gives the number as " over fifteen 

M 2 163 


appeared to baffle him. The graver the malady the 
more resourceful he became. A woman about to be 
confined, having been given up by the midwives, who 
doubted even their ability to save her child, sent for 
him in her extremity. He answered the summons 
immediately, as was his custom, and after a slight 
examination guaranteed her a successful accouchement. 
What is more to the point, he kept his word. 

This case is worthy of note as being the only 
one on record concerning which Cagliostro gave an 
explanation of his success. 

" He afterwards confessed to me," says Gleichen, 
" that his promise was rash. But convinced that the 
child was in perfect health by the pulse of the umbilical 
cord, and perceiving that the mother only lacked the 
strength requisite to bring her babe into the world, 
he had relied on the virtue of a singularly soothing 
remedy with which he was acquainted. The result, he 
considered, had been due to luck rather than skill." 

The most famous of all his cures was that of the 
Prince de Soubise, a cousin of Cardinal de Rohan. In 
this case, however, it was the rank of the patient, even 
more than the illness of which he was cured, that set 
the seal to Cagliostro's reputation. The prince, it 
seems, had been ill for some weeks, and the doctors, 
after differing widely as to the cause of his malady, 
had finally pronounced his condition to be desperate. 
Thereupon the Cardinal, who had boundless confidence 
in Cagliostro's medical skill, immediately carried him 
off in his carriage to Paris to attend his cousin, simply 
stating, on arriving at the H6tel de Soubise, that he 
had brought " a doctor," without mentioning his name, 
lest the family, influenced by the regular physicians, 


The Conquest of the Cardinal 

who regarded him as a quack, should refuse his 
services. It was, perhaps, a useless precaution, for, as 
the patient had just been given up by the doctors, the 
family were willing enough to suffer even a quack to 
do what he could. 

Cagliostro at once requested all who were in the 
sick-room to leave it. What he did when he found him- 
self alone with the prince was never known, but, after 
an hour, he called the Cardinal and said to him — 

"If my prescription is followed, in two days 
Monseigneur will leave his bed and walk about the 
room. Within a week he will be able to take a drive, 
and within three to go to Court." 

When one has consulted an oracle, one can do no 
better than obey it. The family accordingly confided 
the prince completely to the care of the unknown 
doctor, who on the same day paid his patient a second 
visit. On this occasion he took with him a small vial 
containing a liquid, ten drops of which he administered 
to the sick man. 

On leaving, he said to the Cardinal : '' To-morrow I 
will give the prince five drops, the day after two, and 
you will see that he will sit up the same evening." 

The result more than fulfilled the prediction. 
The second day after this visit the Prince de Soubise 
was in a condition to receive some friends. In 
the evening he got up and walked about the room. He 
was in good spirits, and even had sufficient appetite to 
ask for the wing of a chicken. But, in spite of his 
insistence, it was necessary to refuse him what he so 
much desired, since an absolute abstention from solid 
food was one of the prescriptions of the '' doctor." 

On the fourth day the patient was convalescent, but 



it was not till the evening of the fifth that he was per- 
mitted to have his wing of a chicken. ** No one," says 
Figuier, ''in the Hotel de Soubise had the least idea 
that Cagliostro was the doctor who attended the 
prince. His identity was only disclosed after the cure, 
when his name, already famous, ceased to be regarded 
any longer as that of a charlatan." 


The secret of these astonishing cures, by far the 
most wonderful of Cagllostro's prodigies, has given 
rise to a great deal of futile discussion. For he never 
cured in public, like Mesmer ; nor would he consent 
to give any explanation of his method to the doctors 
and learned academicians, who treated him with con- 
tempt born of envy — as the pioneers of science, with 
rare exceptions, have always been treated. 

From the fact that he became celebrated at about 
the same time as Mesmer, many have regarded them 
as rivals, and declared that the prestige of both is to 
be traced to the same source. According to this point 
of view, Cagliostro, being more encyclopedic than 
Mesmer, though less scientific in manipulating the 
agent common to both, had in some way generalized 
magnetism, so to speak. His cures, however, were 
far more astonishing than Mesmer's, for they were 
performed without passes or the use of magnets and 
magnetic wands. Neither did he heal merely by 
touchingy like Gassner, nor by prayers, exorcisms, and 
the religious machinery by which faith is made active ; 
though very probably the greater part of his success 
was due, like Mrs. Eddy's, to the confident tone in 

1 66 

The Conquest of the Cardinal - 

which he assured his patients of the certainty of their 

CagHostro's contemporaries, on the other hand, to 
whom the mechanism of Christian Science and the 
attributes of hypnotism — since so well tested by Dr. 
Charcot — were unknown, sought a material explana- 
tion of his cures in the quack medicines he concocted. 
The old popular belief in medicinal stones and magical 
herbs was still prevalent. One writer of the period 
pretended to know that CagHostro's " Elixir Vitse " 
was composed of '' magical herbs and gold in solution." 
Another declared it to be the same as the elixir of 
Arnauld de Villeneuve, a famous alchemist of the 
Middle Ages, whose prescription consisted of "a mix- 
ture of pearls, sapphires, hyacinths, emeralds, rubies, 
topazes and diamonds, to which was added the scraping 
of the bones of a stag's heart." 

Equally fantastic were the properties attributed to 
these panaceas by those who owed their restoration 
to health to Cagliostro. The following story, repeated 
everywhere — and believed, too, by many — gave the 
notoriety of a popular modern advertisement to the 
'• Wine of Egypt." 

A great lady, who was also, unfortunately for her, 
an old one, and was unable to resign herself to the 
fact, was reported to have consulted Cagliostro, who 
gave her a vial of the precious liquid with the strictest 
injunction to take two drops when the moon entered 
its last quarter. Whilst waiting for this period to 
arrive the lady who desired to be rejuvenated shut up 
the vial in her wardrobe, and the better to insure its 
preservation informed her maid that it was a remedy 
for the colic. Fatal precaution ! By some mischance 



on the following night, the maid was seized witl 
the very malady of which her mistress had spoken. 
Remembering the remedy so fortuitously at hand she 
got up, opened the wardrobe, and emptied the vial at 
a draught. 

The next morning she went as usual to wait on her 
mistress, who looked at her in surprise and asked her 
what she wailfed. Thinking the old lady had had a 
stroke in the night, she said — 

" Ah, madame, don't you know me ? I am your 

" My maid is a woman of fifty," was the reply, 
"and you " 

But she did not finish the sentence. The woman 
had caught a glimpse of her face in a mirror. 
The Wine of Egypt had rejuvenated her thirty 
years ! 

In an age unfamiliar with the cunning devices of 
the art of advertising and the universality of the 
pretensions of quack remedies, such encomiums lavished 
on "an extract of Saturn," a " Wine of Egypt," or an 
"Elixir Vitse," were calculated to damage the reputation 
of their inventor in the opinion of serious people even 
more than the bitter denunciations to which they were 
exposed. One of the charges of imposture on which 
the case against Cagliostro rests is that of manufacturing 
his remedies with the object of defrauding the public 
by attributing to them fabulous properties which he 
knew they did not possess. If this be admitted, then a 
similar accusation must be made against every maker 
of patent medicines to-day, which, in view of the law 
of libel and the fact that many persons have been 
restored to health by the concoctions of quacks whom 

1 68 

The Conquest of the Cardinal 

the skilled physician has been powerless to heal, would 
be incredibly foolish. 

To regard these remedies of Cagliostro with their 
ridiculous names and quixotic pretensions with the old 
prejudice is preposterous. Judged by the number and 
variety of his cures — and it is the only reasonable 
standard to judge them by — they were, to say the 
least, remarkable. 

In the present day, it is no longer the custom to 
deride the knowledge of the old alchemists. The 
world has come to acknowledge that, in spite of the 
fantastic jargon in which they expressed themselves, 
they fully understood the uses of the plants and 
minerals of which they composed their drugs. Stripped 
of the atmosphere of magic and mystery in which they 
delighted to wrap their knowledge — and which, 
ridiculous as it may seem to-day, had just as much 
effect on the imagination in their benighted age as the 
more scientific mode of '' suggestion " employed by 
the doctors of our own enlightened era — the remedies 
of a Borri or a Paracelsus are still deserving of respect, 
and still employed. Cagliostro is known to have 
made a serious study of alchemy, and it is very 
probable that his magic balsams and powders were 
prepared after receipts he discovered in old books of 
alchemy. Perhaps too, like all quacks — it is impossible 
to accord a more dignified title to one who had not 
the diploma of a properly qualified practitioner — he 
made the most of old wives' remedies picked up 
haphazard in the course of his travels. 

Without doubt the unparalleled credulity and 
superstition of the age contributed greatly to his 
success. Miracles can only succeed in an atmosphere 



favourable to the miraculous. In Europe, as the 
reader has seen — particularly in France — the soil had 
been well prepared for seed of the sort that Cagliostro 


The cure of the Prince de Soubise gave Cagliostro 
an immense prestige. ** It would be impossible," says 
the Baroness d'Oberkirch, ''to give an idea of the 
passion, the madness with which people pursued him. 
It would appear incredible to any one who had not 
seen it." On returning to Strasburg, '' he was followed 
by a dozen ladies of rank and two actresses " who 
desired to have the benefit of his treatment. People 
came from far and wide to consult him ; and many 
out of sheer curiosity. To these, whom he regarded 
as spies sent by his enemies, he was either inaccessible 
or positively rude. 

Lavater, who came from Zurich, was treated with 
very scant courtesy. ** If," said Cagliostro, ''your 
science [that of reading character by the features, by 
which he had acquired a European reputation] is 
greater than mine, you have no need of my acquaintance; 
and if mine is the greater, I have no need of yours." 

Lavater, however, was not to be repulsed by the 
inference to be drawn from such a remark. The 
following day he wrote Cagliostro a long letter in 
which, among other things, he asked him " how he had 
acquired his knowledge, and in what it consisted." In 
reply Cagliostro limited himself to these words : In 
verbis, in herbisy in lapidibus, by which, as M. d'Alm^ras 
observes, he probably indicated correctly the nature 
and extent of his medical and occult lore. 


LAVATER [To /ace Jia^-i- 170 

{A/tcr the eiigraving by Williaiit Blake) 

The Conquest of the Cardinal 

But Lavater, as credulous as he was inquisitive, 
impressed by the mystery in which CagHostro enveloped 
his least action, read into his words quite another 
meaning. Believing firmly in the Devil — about whom 
he had written a book — the Swiss pastor returned home 
convinced that the Grand Cophta of Egyptian Masonry 
was ** a supernatural being with a diabolic mission." 

In nobody were the curiosity and admiration that 
he inspired greater than in the notorious Cardinal de 
Rohan. His Eminence was one of the darlings of 
Fortune, whose choicest favours had been showered on 
him with a lavish hand. Of the most illustrious birth, 
exceptionally handsome, enormously rich, and un- 
deniably fascinating, no younger son ever started life 
under more brilliant auspices. The Church seemed to 
exist solely for the purpose of providing him with 
honours. Bishop of Strasburg, Grand Almoner of 
France, Cardinal, Prince of the Empire, Landgrave of 
Alsace — his titles were as numerous as the beads of a 
rosary. Nor were they merely high-sounding and 
empty dignities. From the Abbey of St. Waast, the 
richest in France, of which he was the Abbot, he 
drew 300,000 livres a year, and from all these 
various sources combined his revenue was estimated 
at 1,200,000 livres. 

Nature had endowed him no less bounteously than 
Fortune. To the honours which he owed to the 
accident of birth, his intellect had won him another 
still more coveted. At twenty-seven he had been 
elected to the Academie Fran^aise, where, as he was 
particularly brilliant in conversation, it is not surprising 
that the Immortals should have " declared themselves 
charmed with his company." 

^i i¥\M .5 


He possessed all the conspicuous qualities and de- 
fects which in the eighteenth century were characteristic 
of the aristocrat. High ecclesiastic that he was, he 
had nothing of the ascetic about him. Like so many 
of the great dignitaries of the Church under the ancien 
regime, he was worldly to the last degree. As he was 
not a hypocrite, he did not hesitate to live as he 
pleased. Appointed Ambassador to Vienna, he had 
scandalized the strait-laced Maria Theresa by his 
reckless extravagance and dissipation. The Emperor, 
to her disgust, " loved conversing with him to enjoy 
his flippant gossip and wicked stories." '' Our 
women," she wrote to her Ambassador at Versailles, 
*' young and old, beautiful and ugly, are bewitched by 
him. He is their idol." 

His character was a mosaic of vice and virtue. 
With him manners took the place of morals. "He 
possessed," says Madame d'Oberkirch, *' the gallantry 
and politeness of a grand seigneur such as I have 
rarely met in any one." Madame de Genlis con- 
sidered that, "if he was nothing that he ought to be, 
he was as amiable as it was possible to be." In him 
vice lost all its grossness and levity acquired dignity. 
Anxious to please, he was also susceptible to flattery. 
" By my lording him," says Manuel, who disliked 
him, " one can get from him whatever one desires." 
At the same time he was obliged to confess that the 
Cardinal "had a really good heart." 

It was to his excessive good-nature that he owed 
most of his misfortunes. The entire absence of in- 
tolerance in his character caused him to be regarded as 
an atheist, but his unbelief, like his vices, was greatly 
exaggerated. Men in his position never escape detrac- 



The Conquest of the Cardinal 

i tion, but in the case of the Cardinal he deliberately 
invited it. Gracious to all, he was generous to a fault. 
He dispensed favour and charity alike without dis- 
cernment, giving to the poor as readily and as bounti- 
fully as to his mistresses. Of these he had had many ; 
the memoirs of the period contain strange, and often 
untranslatable, stories of his private life. For some 
years he was followed wherever he went by the beauti- 
ful Marquise de Marigny dressed as a page. 

Besides his weakness for a pretty face, this splendid 
tare had a fondness amounting to passion for pomp 
and alchemy. ** On state occasions at Versailles," says 
Madame d'Oberkirch, he wore an alb of lace en point 
h r aiguille of such beauty that the assistants were 
almost afraid to touch it." It was embroidered with 
his arms and device — the famous device of the Rohans, 
Roy ne puis, prince ne daigne, Rohan je suis. It was 
said to be worth a million livres. 

In gratifying his taste for luxury, the cost was the 
last thing he considered. On going to Vienna as 
Ambassador he took with him two gala coaches worth 
40,000 livres each ; fifty horses, two equerries, two 
piqueurs, seven pages drawn from the nobility of 
Brittany and Alsace with their governors and tutors, 
two gentlemen-in-waiting, six footmen, whose scarlet 
and gold liveries cost him 4000 livres apiece, etc. 

In France his style of living was still more extrava- 
gant. He spent vast sums on pictures, sculptures, and 
artistic treasures generally. Collecting illuminated 
missals was his speciality. At his episcopal palace at 
Saverne, near Strasburg, which he rebuilt after it was 
destroyed by fire in 1779 at a cost of between two and 
three million livres, he had a magnificent library. As 



printed books, according to Madame d'Oberkirch, were 
beneath his notice, his Hbrary was noted for its beauti- 
ful bindings, and above all for the missals ornamented 
with miniatures worth their weight in gold. 

His principal pastime, however, was alchemy. At 
Saverne, besides his library, he had one of the finest 
laboratories in Europe. He was almost mad on the 
subject of the philosopher's stone. The mention of 
the occult sciences at once arrested his attention ; then, 
and only then, did the brilliant, frivolous Cardinal 
become serious. 

Naturally, such a man could not fail to be im- 
pressed by the mysterious physician whose cures were 
the talk of Strasburg. 

Shortly after Cagliostro's arrival, Baron de 
Millinens, the Cardinal's master of the hounds, called 
to inform him that his Eminence desired to make his 
acquaintance. But Cagliostro knowing, as he stated 
at his trial in the Necklace Affair, that the prince 
''only desired to see him from curiosity, refused to 
gratify him." The answer he returned is famous, and 
thoroughly characteristic of him. 

''If the Cardinal is ill," he is reported to have said, 
"let him come to me and I will cure him ; but if he is 
well, he has no need of me nor I of him." 

This message, far from affronting the Cardinal, only 
increased his curiosity. After having attempted in 
vain to gain admittance to the sanctuary of the new 
Esculapius, his Eminence had, or feigned, an attack 
of asthma, "of which," says Cagliostro, "he sent to 
inform me, whereupon I went at once to attend him." 

The visit, though short, was long enough to inspire 
the Cardinal with a desire for a closer acquaintance. 


The Conquest of the Cardinal 

But Cagliostro's disdainful reserve was not easily 
broken down. The advances of the Cardinal, how- 
ever, were none the less flattering. At last, captivated 
by the persistency of the fascinating prelate, he 
declared in his grandiose way, to Rohan's immense 
joy, that ''the prince's soul was worthy of his, and that 
he would confide to him all his secrets." 

The relation thus formed, whatever the motives that 
prompted it, soon ripened into intimacy. Needless to 
say, they had long, frequent, and secret confabulations 
in the Cardinal's well-equipped laboratory. Cagliostro, 
with his wife, eventually even went to live at Saverne 
at the Cardinal's request. He was bidden to consider 
the palace as his own, and the servants were ordered 
to announce him when he entered a room as ** His 
Excellency M. le Comte de Cagliostro." 

The Baroness d'Oberkirch, on visiting Saverne 
while he was there, ''was stunned by the pomp with 
which he was treated." She was one of the few great 
ladies of Strasburg who refused to believe in him. 
To her he was merely an adventurer. On the 
occasions of her visit to Saverne the Cardinal, who 
had great respect for her, endeavoured to bring her 
round to his opinion. " As I resisted," she said, ** he 
became impatient." 

"Really, madame," said he, "you are hard to 
convince. Do you see this ? " 

He showed me a large diamond that he wore on 
his little finger, and on which the Rohan arms were 
engraved. This ring was worth at least twenty 
thousand francs. 

"It is a beautiful gem, monseigneur," I said, '* I 
have been admiring it." 



*' Well," he exclaimed, '* it is Cagliostro who made 
it : he made it out of nothing. I was present during 
the whole operation with my eyes fixed on the crucible. 
Is not that science, Baroness ? People should not 
say that he is duping me, or taking advantage of me. 
I have had this ring valued by a jeweller and an en- 
graver, and they have estimated it at twenty-five 
thousand livres. You must admit that he would be a 
strange kind of cheat who would make such presents." 

I acknowledge I was stunned. M. de Rohan per- 
ceived it, and continued — 

'' This is not all — he can make gold ! He has made 
in this very palace, in my presence, five or six thousand 
livres. He will make me the richest prince in Europe ! 
These are no mere vagaries of the imagination, 
madame, but positive facts. Think of all his pre- 
dictions that have been realized, of all the miraculous 
cures that he has effected ! I repeat he is a most 
extraordinary, a most sublime man, whose knowledge 
is only equalled by his goodness. What alms he 
gives ! What good he does ! It exceeds all power of 
imagination. / can assure you he has never asked or 
received anything from meT 

But Cagliostro did not confine himself solely to 
seeking the philosopher's stone for the Cardinal. For 
the benefit of his splendid host he displayed the whole 
series of his magical phenomena. 

One day, according to Roberson — who professed to 
have obtained his information from " an eye-witness 
very worthy of credence " — he promised to evoke for 
the Cardinal the shade of a woman he had loved. He 
had made the attempt two or three times before with- 
out success. Death seemed to hesitate to come to the 


The Conquest of the Cardinal 

rendez-vous. The moon, perhaps, had not been 
propitious, or some great crime committed at the 
moment of evocation may have had an unfavourable 
effect. But on this occasion all the conditions on 
which success depended were united. 

"The performance," says Roberson, **took place 
in a small darkened room in the presence of four or 
five spectators who were seated far enough apart to 
prevent them from secretly communicating with one 
another. Wand in hand, Cagliostro stood in the 
middle of the room. The silence which he had com- 
manded was so profound that even the hearts of those 
present seemed to stop beating. All at once the 
wand, as if drawn by a magnet, pointed to a spot on 
the wall where a vague, indefinite form was visible for 
a moment. The Cardinal uttered a cry. He had 
recognized — or believed he had, which amounted to 
the same thing — the woman he had loved." 

So great was the confidence that Rohan placed in 
Cagliostro that he treated him as an oracle. He con- 
stantly consulted him, and suffered himself to be guided 
entirely by his advice. As the consequences of this 
infatuation were in the end disastrous, it is customary 
to regard the Cardinal as the dupe of Cagliostro. 
Many, blinded by prejudice, have supposed that 
Cagliostro, having previously informed himself of the 
tastes, character, and vast wealth of the prince, came 
to Strasburg for the express purpose of victimizing 
him. It is even asserted that the Countess had her 
share in the subjugation of the Cardinal, and that 

N 177 


while Cagliostro attacked his understanding, she laid 
siege to his heart. 

The disdainful, almost hostile, attitude that Caglios- 
tro adopted towards his patron at the beginning of 
their acquaintance was so well calculated to inflame 
Rohan's curiosity that it is a matter of course to 
attribute it to design. The Abbd Georgel, who as a 
Jesuit thoroughly disliked the Grand Cophta ot 
Egyptian Masonry, asserts that ** he sought, without 
having the air of seeking it, the most intimate con- 
fidence of his Eminence and the greatest ascendency 
over his will." 

But this very plausible statement is not only un- 
supported by any fact, but is actually contrary to fact. 
The Cardinal was not Cagliostro s banker, as has so 
often been stated. At his trial in the Necklace Affair 
Rohan denied this most emphatically. Moreover, it 
would have been utterly impossible for him, had he 
wished, to have supplied Cagliostro with the sums he 
spent so lavishly. In spite of his vast income, he had 
for years been head over ears in debt. If there were 
any benefits conferred, it was the Cardinal who received 

" Cagliostro," says Madame d'Oberkirch, "treated-^ 
him, as well as the rest of his aristocratic admirers, as 
if they v/ere under infinite obligation to him and he 
under none to them." ' 

This statement is the secret of the real nature of 
Cagliostro's so-called conquest. It was not cupidity, 
but colossal vanity, that lured him into the glittering 
friendship that ruined him. The Cardinal, with his 
great name and position, his influence, and his un- 
deniable charm, dazzled Cagliostro quite as much as 


The Conquest of the Cardinal 

he, with his miracles, his magic, and his mystery, 
appealed to the imagination of the Cardinal. Each 
had for the other the fascination of a flame for a moth. 
Each fluttered round the other like a moth ; and each 
met with the proverbial moth's fate. But the Caglios- 
tro-flame only scorched the wings of his Eminence. 
It was in the flame of the Cardinal that Cagliostro 

N 2 




Notwithstanding the immense vogue that Cagli- 
ostro enjoyed throughout the three years he passed in 
Strasburg, his Hfe was by no means one of unalloyed 
pleasure. Many a discordant note mingled in the 
chorus of blessing and praise that greeted his ears. 
In the memoir he published at the time of the Diamond 
Necklace Affair, he speaks vaguely of certain ''perse- 
cutions " to which he was constantly subjected. 

" His good fortune, or his knowledge of medicine," 
says Gleichen, "excited the hatred and jealousy of the 
doctors, who when they persecute are as dangerous 
as the priests. They were his implacable enemies in 
France, as well as in Poland and Russia." 

His marvellous cures wounded the a^nour propre 
of the doctors as much as they damaged their reputa- 
tion. Everything that malice and envy could devise 
was done to decry him. They accused him of treating 
only such persons as suffered from slight or imaginary 
ailments, questioned the permanency of his cures, 
denied that he saved lives they had given up, and 
attributed every death to him. He was charged with 
exacting in secret the fees he refused in public. His 
liberality to the poor was ascribed to a desire to attract 
attention, his philanthropy was ridiculed, and the 

1 80 

Cagliostro in Paris 

luxury In which he lived at Cagliostrano, as he called 
the fine villa he rented on the outskirts of the town — 
attached to which was a private hospital or '* nursing- 
home," where his poor patients were treated free of 
charge — was called ostentation. 

Unable to penetrate the mystery in which he 
wrapped his origin, his fortune, and his remarkable 
powers, they attacked his character. As it was known 
that he frequently stayed at Saverne when the Cardinal 
was absent, attempts were made to poison the mind of 
the prince by informing him that his guest gave costly 
banquets at his expense when '* Tokay flowed like 
water." ^ But the Cardinal only laughed. 

''Indeed!" he exclaimed, when Georgel reported 
to him what he himself had only heard. " Well, I 
have given him the right to abuse my hospitality if 
he chooses." 

As the confidence of the Cardinal in his mysterious 
friend was not to be shaken by the slanders of the 
doctors, he also was assailed. Old stories of his 
Eminence's private life were revived and new ones 
added to them. His friendship for Cagliostro was de- 
clared to be merely a cloak to hide a passion for his 
wife. The Countess was said, and believed by many, 
to be his mistress. It was consequently regarded as a 

^ This charge is cited by Carlyle as an instance of the baseness 
of Cagliostro's character. But as a matter of fact, the charge, like 
most of the others made against him, proves on investigation to be 
without any foundation. It was the Baron de Planta, one of the 
Cardinal's secretaries, who gave the much-talked-of midnight suppers 
at Saverne, " when the Tokay flowed like water." It is extremely 
doubtful whether Cagliostro even tasted the Tokay ; his contempor- 
aries frequently mention with ridicule his abstemiousness. Referring 
to his ascetic habits, Madame d'Oberkirch says contemptuously 
that " he slept in an arm-chair and lived on cheese." 



matter of course that it was the Cardinals money 
which the Count spent so lavishly. 

But far from plundering the infatuated prince as 
his enemies asserted, Cagliostro did not so much as 
appeal to him for protection. Fortunately the Cardinal 
did not require to be reminded of the claims of friend- 
ship. Fully aware of the hostility to Cagliostro, he 
endeavoured to silence it by procuring for him from 
three members of the Government letters to the chief 
civil authority in which his protdg^ was recommended 
in the highest terms. To Cagliostro these letters, to 
which at any time he would have attached an exag- 
gerated importance, had a special significance from the 
fact that *' he neither solicited them directly nor indi- 
rectly." He counted them among his most valuable 

The tranquillity, however, which they procured him 
was only transient. Ever employing fresh weapons 
and methods in attacking him, his enemies eventually 
found his Achilles'-heel — the impulsive sympathy of a 
naturally kind heart. 

One day, while he was showing an important 
government official over his hospital, a man whom he 
had never seen before, and who appeared to have 
fallen on evil times, appealed to him for assistance. 
He asked to be taken into his service, and offered to 
wear his livery. He said that his name was Sacchi, 
that he came of a good family in Amsterdam, and had 
some knowledge of chemistry. Touched by his evi- 
dent distress, Cagliostro yielded as usual to his charit- 
able impulses. He found employment for Sacchi in his 
hospital, and paid him liberally. 

'* I was even persuaded," he said afterwards, "to 


Cagliostro in Paris 

give him the receipt of certain medicaments, among 
others that of an elixir, which he has since sold in 
London as my balsam, though there is not the least 
resemblance between them." 

A week later a man, whose wife and daughter had 
been cured of a dangerous illness by Cagliostro, called 
to inform him that Sacchi was a spy of his enemies the 
doctors, and that he was seeking to damage him by 
extorting fees from his patients. Horrified at the 
ingratitude and treachery of which he was the victim, 
Cagliostro forthwith turned ** the reptile he had har- 
boured " out of doors. Destitute of honour, rage now 
deprived Sacchi of common sense. Having been rash 
enough to threaten the life of the person who had ex- 
posed him, he was expelled from the city by the 
Marquis de Lasalle, the Commandant of Strasburg, who 
had been cured of a dangerous illness by Cagliostro. 

But this action only served to increase the ex- 
asperation of the doctors, whose agent Sacchi was. 
Instigated by them he wrote to Cagliostro an insolent 
letter in which he demanded one hundred and fifty 
louis for the week he had passed in his service, 
threatening, if it were not instantly paid, to libel him. 
Cagliostro treated the threat with contemptuous 
silence, whereupon Sacchi proceeded to publish his 
libel, which he composed with the aid of a French 
lawyer who had escaped from the galleys. In it he 
declared the mysterious Count to be the son of a 
Neapolitan coachman, formerly known as Don Tiscio, 
a name under which he, Sacchi, had seen him exposed 
in the pillory at Alicante in Spain. ^ 

1 This libel attracted considerable attention, and great use was 
made of it in Cagliostro's lifetime by his enemies. Republished 



As sensitive to abuse as he was susceptible to 
flattery, Cagliostro was unable to endure such treat- 
ment, and convinced from his previous experience in 
Russia that there would be no limit to the vindictive 
malevolence of the doctors, he determined, he says, to 
leave Strasburg, where, in spite of the Cardinal's pro- 
tection and his ministerial letters, he could find neither 
tranquillity nor security. A letter received about this 
time informing him that the Chevalier d' Aquino, ot 
Naples, a friend of his mysterious past, was danger- 
ously ill, and desired to see him, confirmed him in his 
resolution. Accordingly, in spite of the entreaties of 
the Cardinal, he shook the dust of Strasburg from his 
feet, and departed in all haste for Naples, where, 
however, he states, he arrived too late to save his 


On leaving Strasburg, as previously on leaving 
London and Warsaw, Cagliostro once more plunged 
into the obscurity in which so much of his career was 
passed that it might almost be described as his native 
element, to emerge again three months later as before 
on the crest of the wave of fortune in Bordeaux. As 
rumour, however, followed him it is possible to surmise 
with some degree of probability what became of him. 

The imaginative Inquisition-biographer, though 
unable to give any account of Cagliostro's journey 
from Strasburg to Naples, his residence in that city, 

during the Necklace Affair, the Parliament of Paris ordered its sup- 
pression as " injurious and calumnious." The editor of the Courier 
de r Europe afterwards quoted it in his bitter denunciation of Cagli- 
ostro, and advanced it as proof of his identity with Giuseppe Balsamo. 
It has since generally been admitted to be a malicious invention. 


Cagliostro in Paris 

or subsequent journey to Bordeaux — a singular tour ! 
— nevertheless unconsciously throws something like 
light on the subject. He declares that the Countess 
Cagliostro, who accompanied her husband, ''confessed" 
at her trial before the Apostolic Court in Rome that 
"he left Naples owing to his failure to establish a 
lodge of Egyptian Masonry." Questionable as the 
source is from which this statement emanates, it is 
nevertheless a clue. 

Whatever difference of opinion there may be as 
to the honesty of Cagliostro's motives in propagating 
Egyptian Masonry, there is none as to his pertinacity. 
Within three weeks of his arrival in Strasburg he had 
founded a lodge for the observance of the Egyptian 
Rite. The mysterious and hurried visits he paid from 
time to time to Bale, Geneva, and other places in 
Switzerland during his three years' residence in Alsace 
were apparently of a Masonic nature. It is, moreover, 
curious to note that his hurried departure for Naples 
occurred immediately after the Neapolitan govern- 
ment removed its ban against Freemasonry. As the 
Neapolitan government would not have taken this 
step had there been the least likelihood of Free- 
masonry obtaining a hold over the masses, it is highly 
probable that Cagliostro left Naples for the reason 
given by the Inquisition-biographer. 

This probability is still further strengthened by his 
subsequent movements, which, erratic though they may 
appear, had a well-defined purpose. From the time he 
left London, be it said, till his last fatal journey to 
Rome, Cagliostro never went anywhere without having 
a definite and preconceived purpose. 

It was certainly with a very definite object that he 



went to Bordeaux, where he is next heard of, and 
whither he travelled, as he himself says, through the 
cities of Southern France. Now the cities of Southern 
France were permeated with supernaturalism. It was 
at Bordeaux, that Martinez Pasqualis had held his 
celebrated school of magic and mystical theurgy, the 
most distinguished of whose pupils was Saint- Martin, 
the founder of the Martinists. No place was better 
adapted for gaining recruits to Egyptian or any other 
kind of Freemasonry. 

It was here that Mesmer found the noisiest and 
most ardent of his admirers in Pere Hervier, an 
Augustinian monk who by his eloquence had made 
a great reputation as a popular preacher. Summoned 
to Bordeaux by the municipality to preach during Lent 
at the Church of St. Andrew, Hervier preached not 
only the gospel according to Christ but that according 
to the Messiah of animal magnetism, with the result 
that he made both the clergy and the doctors his 

This church, one of the finest Gothic monuments 
in Europe, was the stage on which he displayed his 
talents both as an orator and as a mesmerist. He was 
preaching one day on eternal damnation. His flash- 
ing eyes, commanding gestures, and alluring voice, 
which had from the start prepared the church from 
the holy water stoup to the candles on the altar, never 
once lost their hold upon the imagination. The con- 
gregation, consisting of the richest, youngest, and most 
frivolous women of Bordeaux, was in complete accord 
with the preacher. Suddenly when the monk began 
to picture the horrors of hell a young girl fell into a 
fit. Such an incident happening at such a moment 


Cagliostro in Paris 

created a panic, and those in the immediate neighbour- 
hood of the unfortunate girl fled from the spot in terror. 
Suspending his sermon Pere Hervier descended from 
the pulpit with the sublime gravity of an apostle, and 
going up to the young girl, magnetized her after the 
manner of Mesmer. Immediately her convulsions 
began to cease. The congregation fell on its knees. 
The face of the priest seemed illumined with a divine 
light. As he passed the women kissed his feet, and 
were with difficulty prevented from worshipping 

Perceiving that the moment was, so to speak, 
psychological, Pere Hervier remounted the pulpit, 
and taking as his text the miracle he had just per- 
formed, discoursed with all the eloquence for which he 
was noted on charity and Christ healing the sick ; 
finally bringing his sermon to a close with a passion- 
ate denunciation of the doctors and clergy of Bordeaux 
who did not believe in magnetism and desired nothing 
better than to persecute a poor monk who did. 

Such a stage was too well adapted to Egyptian 
Masonry not to have attracted Cagliostro. On the 
night of his arrival in Bordeaux he and his wife went 
to the play, and on being recognized received an 
ovation. The next day the concourse of people who 
flocked to consult him was so great that the magistrates 
were obliged to give him a guard of soldiers to preserve 
order in the street. 

He had resolved, he says, on leaving Strasburg to 
give up the practice of medicine in order to avoid 
exposing himself again to the envy of the doctors. 
However, as the number of persons of all stations who 
sought his assistance was so great he was induced to 



change his mind, and resume the. gratuitous "miracles" 
which had rendered him so celebrated in Strasburg. 
In coming to this decision he afterwards declared 
that he counted on the protection of the Comte de 
Vergennes, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 
and one of the three Cabinet Ministers who had 
previously recommended him to the Pretor of Stras- 
burg. It was, he said, at Vergennes' special request 
that he returned to France. As the Comte de 
Vergennes failed to deny this statement, which he 
could easily have done when it was made by Cagliostro 
at his trial in the Necklace Affair, there seems no 
reason to doubt it. 

In Bordeaux, as at Strasburg, his cures and his 
charities attracted general attention and procured him 
a large and enthusiastic following. Many of the most 
influential men of the city sought admittance to the 
lodge he founded. But, as before, Egyptian Masonry 
flourished at the expense of the tranquillity and security 
of the Grand Cophta. The influence of Vergennes and 
other powerful patrons was powerless to protect him 
from the ingenious malevolence of the envious doctors. 
Even Pere Hervier, instead of joining forces with 
him, entered the lists against him. Mere *' clerk of 
Mesmer," he had the folly to engage Cagliostro in a 
public discussion, in which he received so humiliating '| 
a chastisement that he was laughed out of Bordeaux. 
But in spite of his triumphs life was made such a 
burden to Cagliostro that after being continually baited 
for eleven months he could endure the torment no 
longer, and departed for Lyons. 

This city was a veritable stronghold of Free- 
masonry. Lodges of all descriptions flourished here, 

1 88 

Cagliostro in Paris 

notably those founded by Saint- Martin, the most 
mystical of occultists, in which the Swedenborgian 
Rite was observed. It was here that Cagliostro found 
his most ardent and loyal supporters. Their enthusiasm 
was such that they built a ** temple " expressly for the 
observance of the Egyptian Rite. It enjoyed the 
dignity of being the Mother Lodge of Egyptian 
Masonry, the lodges at Strasburg, Bale, Bordeaux, 
Paris, and other places being affiliated to it. As it was 
the custom for the mother lodges of every order of 
Freemasonry to be named after some virtue, this 
one received the title of Sagesse Triomphante. It 
was the only lodge specially erected by Cagliostro's 
followers, all the others being held in rooms rented for 
their needs. 

It would have been well for Cagliostro had he been 
content to remain in Lyons. He would have enjoyed 
the "tranquillity and security " he so much desired ; 
and history, perhaps, would have forgotten him, for it 
is owing to his misfortunes that his achievements are 
chiefly remembered. 

But destiny lured him to destruction and an igno- 
minious renown. Inordinately vain and self-conscious, 
he was enticed to Paris by the Cardinal, who was then 
residing there, and with whom he had been in constant 
correspondence ever since he left Strasburg. So 
insistent was his Eminence that he sent Raymond de 
Carbonnieres, one of his secretaries, and an enthusiastic 
admirer of Cagliostro, to Lyons on purpose to fetch 
him. Paris, too, Mecca of every celebrity, called him 
with no uncertain voice. Magic-struck she craved the 
excitement of fresh mysteries and the spell of a new 
idol. Mesmer s tempestuous vogue was over ; adored 



and ridiculed in turn he had departed with 340,000 
livres, a very practical proof of his success. 

So having appointed a Grand Master to represent 
him, and delegated his seal — a serpent pierced with an 
arrow — to two '' venerables," Cagliostro left Lyons for 
Paris. If he made enemies in Lyons they did not 
molest him. It was the only place in which he does 
not complain of being persecuted. 


On arriving in Paris, Cagliostro declares that he 
" took the greatest precaution to avoid causing ill-will. 
As the majority of contemporary documents concur in 
describing his life in Paris as '* dignified and reserved," 
there is no reason to doubt the truth of his statement. 
But one cannot escape one's fate, and in spite of his 
efforts not to attract attention, he was condemned to an 
extraordinary notoriety. 

His arrival was no sooner known than, as at Stras- 
burg, Bordeaux, and Lyons, his house was beset with 
cripples and invalids of all walks of life. As usual he 
refused to accept payment for his services or even for 
his remedies. 

" No one," says Grimm, *' ever succeeded in making 
him accept the least mark of gratitude." 

"What is singular about Cagliostro," says the 
Baron de Besenval, ** is that in spite of possessing the 
characteristics that one associates with a charlatan, he 
never behaved as such all the time he was at Strasburg 
or at Paris. On the contrary, he never took a sou 
from a person, lived honourably, always paid with the 



Cagliostro in Paris 

greatest exactitude what he owed, and was very 

Needless to say, it was not long before his name 
became the chief topic of conversation in the capital. 
In the enthusiasm his successes excited his failures 
were ignored. Rumour multiplied the number of his 
cures and magnified their importance. His fame was 
thus reflected on the invalids themselves. To be 
"healed" by the Grand Cophta became the rage. In 
1785 Paris swarmed with men and women who 
professed to have been cured by Cagliostro. 

Naturally this infatuation infuriated his inveterate 
enemies the doctors. It is said that they obtained an 
order from the King compelling him, if he wished to 
remain in Paris, to refrain from practising medicine. 
If so, they had not the courage to enforce it, for he 
counted among his partisans men of the very highest 
rank, such as the Prince de Luxembourg, who was 
Grand Master of the Lodge at Lyons, as well as those 
distinguished for their learning like the naturalist 
Ramon. All the same the doctors did not leave 
him entirely unmolested. 

Urged by their masters, who from a sense of 
dignity or prudence dared not encounter him in 
person, two medical students resolved to play a 
practical joke upon the ** healer." It was a species 
of amusement very popular at the period ; in this 
instance it was regarded also as a duty. The students 
accordingly called on Cagliostro, and on being admitted 
one of them complained of a mysterious malady of 
which the symptoms seemed to him extraordinary. In 
attempting, however, to describe them, he used certain 
scientific terms, which at once caused Cagliostro to 



suspect that his visitor was an emissary of the doctors. 
Restraining his indignation he turned to the other and 
said with the greatest gravity — 

"Your friend must remain here under my care for 
sixteen days. The treatment to which I shall subject 
him is very simple, but to effect his cure it will be 
absolutely necessary for him to eat but once a day, 
and then only an ounce of nourishment." 

Alarmed at the prospect of so drastic a diet the 
mock-invalid began to protest, and asked if it was not 
possible to indicate exactly what it was he suffered 

'' Nothing simpler," replied Cagliostro. ** Super- 
fluity of bile in the medical faculty." 

The two students, finding themselves caught in the 
trap they had set for him, stammered their apologies 
as best they could. Whereupon Cagliostro, perceiving 
their discomfiture, good-naturedly set them at ease and 
invited them to breakfast, with the result that they 
were converted into ardent admirers. 

He did not desire, however, to be known only as a 
healer of the sick. 

In the exhibitions he gave of his tx:cult or psychic 
powers, he soon eclipsed every other contemporary 
celebrity from the number and variety of the phenomena 
he performed. Everybody wished to witness these 
wonders, and those who were denied the privilege were 
never tired of describing them in detail as if they had 
seen them, or of listening in turn to their recital. 
The memoirs of the period are filled with the marvels 
of his stances at which he read — by means of colombes 
and pupilles — the future and the past, in mirrors, 
carafes, and crystals ; of his predictions, his cures, and 


Cagliostro in Paris 

his evocations of the dead, who appeared at his command 
to rejoice or to terrify, as the case might be, those in 
compliance with whose wishes he had summoned them 
from the grave. 

Every day some new and fantastic story was 
circulated about him. 

It was related, for example, that one day after a 
dinner-party at Chaillot, at which the company con- 
sisted chiefly of ladies, he was asked by his hostess to 
procure partners for her friends who had expressed the 
desire to dance. 

" M. de Cagliostro," she said half- seriously, half- 
play fully, " you have only to employ your supernatural 
powers to fetch us some officers from the Ecole 

''True," he replied, going to a window from which 
this institution could be seen in the distance, ** it only 
requires an invisible bridge between them and us." 

A burst of ironical laughter greeted his words. 
Indignant, he extended his arm in the direction of the 
Hotel des Invalides, which could also be seen from 
the window. A few minutes later eighteen veterans 
with cork-legs arrived at the house ! 

On another occasion it was reported that Cagliostro, 
having invited six noblemen to dine with him, had the 
table laid for thirteen. On the arrival of his guests he 
requested them to name any illustrious shades they 
desired to occupy the vacant seats. Straightway, as 
their names were mentioned, the spectres of the Due 
de Choiseul, the Abbe de Voisenon, Montesquieu, 
Diderot, d'Alembert, and Voltaire appeared, and 
taking the places assigned them conversed with their 
hosts in a manner so incredibly stupid, which had it 
o 193 


been characteristic of them in the flesh would have 
robbed them of all claim to distinction. 

This anecdote, one of the gems of the Marquis de 
Luchet's lively imagination, who related it with much 
spirit, was devoid of the least particle of truth. Never- 
theless the C^nacle de Treize or Banquet of the Dead, 
as it was called, acquired an immense notoriety. All 
Paris talked of it ; and even at Versailles it had the 
honour for some minutes of being the subject of royal 

Constantly fired by such stories, the admiration 
and curiosity that Cagliostro aroused in all classes of 
society reached a degree of infatuation little short 
of idolatry. By his followers he was addressed as 
** revered father" or ''august master." They spent 
whole hours censing him with a flattery almost profane, 
believing themselves purified by being near him. 
Some more impassioned and ridiculous than others 
averred that ''he could tell Atheists and Blasphemers 
by their smell which threw him into epileptic fits." 

Houdon, the most celebrated sculptor of the day, 
executed his bust. Replicas in bronze, marble, and 
plaster, bearing the words, Le Divin Cagliostro on 
the pedestal, were to be found in salons, boudoirs, and 
offices. Rings, brooches, fans, and snuff-boxes were 
adorned with his portrait. Prints of him by Bartolozzi 
and others were scattered broadcast over Europe, with 
the following flattering inscription — 

De Fami des humains reconnaissez les traits; 

Tous ses jours sont marques par de nouveaux bienfaits, 

II prolonge la vie, il secourt I'indigence, 

Le plaisir d'etre utile est seul sa recompense. 

Figuier's statement, however, that " bills were even 


\To face page 194 
Reproduced by the courtesy of Messrs. Hachette et Cie. 


Cagliostro in Paris 

posted on the walls to the effect that Louis XVI had 
declared that any one who injured him was guilty of 
lese-majesty '' is extremely doubtful. He was never 
received at Versailles. Marie Antoinette, who had 
protected Mesmer, could not be induced to take the 
least interest in Cagliostro. 


The interest displayed in the prodigies he was said 
to perform was augmented by the profound secrecy he 
observed in regard to his parentage, his nationality, 
and his past in general. In the hectic years imme- 
diately preceding the Revolution, when credulity, 
curiosity, and the passion for sensation had reached a 
stage bordering almost on madness, it required no 
effort of the imagination to make this secrecy itself 
supernatural ; indeed, in the end the interest taken in 
the mystery in which Cagliostro wrapped himself 
surpassed that in all his wonders combined. 

People speculated on the source of his wealth 
without being able to arrive at any conclusion. ** No 
one," says Georgel, "could discover the nature of his 
resources, he had no letter of credit, and apparently 
no banker, nevertheless he lived in the greatest 
affluence, giving much to the needy, and seeking 
no favours whatever from the rich." In Strasburg, 
according to Meiners, ** at the very lowest estimate 
his annual expenditure was not less than 20,000 
livres." In Paris he was reputed to live at the rate of 
100,000 livres a year. The splendid footing on which 
his establishment was maintained was, however, 
probably greatly exaggerated. He himself says that 
02 195 


the fine house in the Rue St. Claude, which he 
rented from the Marquise d'OrvilHers, was *' furnished 
by degrees." » 

Some, as previously stated, attributed his splendour 
to the Cardinal. It was attested during the Necklace 
Affair that proof of this was found among the 
Cardinal's papers. Rohan, however, at his trial 
denied the charge most emphatically, and Cagliostro 
himself declared that the Cardinal's munificence never 
went beyond ** birthday gifts to the Countess, the 
whole of which consisted of a dove, his (Cagliostro's) 
portrait set in diamonds, with a small watch and 
chain also set with brilliants." ^ 

Others declared that his wealth was derived from 
" the mines of Lima, of which his father was said to 
be director." By others, again, it was said that " the 
Jesuits supplied him with funds, or that having 
persuaded some Asiatic prince to send his son to 
travel in Europe, he had murdered the youth and 
taken possession of his treasures." Cagliostro himself 
was always very mysterious on this subject. 

" But your manner of living," he was questioned 
at his trial in the Necklace Affair, ** is expensive ; you 
give away much, and accept of nothing in return ; you 
pay everybody ; how do you contrive to get money ? " 

**This question," he replied, ''has no kind ot 

relation to the case in point. What difference does 

1 To doubt these statements on the score of a popular prejudice 
in favour of regarding Cagliostro as a liar who never by any chance 
spoke the truth is quite ridiculous. Not only is there no proof on 
which to base this assertion, but there is not even the least suggestion 
that Cagliostro was ever considered a liar by his contemporaries 
before the Editor of the Courier de V Europe — himself the biggest of 
liars and knaves — took advantage of the passions let loose by the 
Diamond Necklace Affair to brand him as such. 


Cagliostro in Paris 

it make whether I am the son of a monarch or a 
beggar, or by what means I procure the money I 
want, as long as I regard religion and the laws and 
pay every one his due ? I have always taken a 
pleasure in refusing to gratify the public curiosity 
on this score. Nevertheless I will condescend to 
tell you that which I have never revealed to any one 
before. The principal resource I have to boast of is 
that as soon as I set foot in any country I find there 
a banker who supplies me with everything I want. 
For instance, M. Sarazin, of Bale, would give me up 
his whole fortune were I to ask it. So would M. 
Sancotar at Lyons." ^ 

Equally various were the nationalities attributed 
to him. ** Some thought him a Spaniard, others a 
Jew, an Italian, a Ragusan, or even an Arab." All 
attempts to discover his nationality by his language 
failed. Baron Grimm was '* certain that he had a 
Spanish accent," others were equally certain that he 
talked "the patois of Sicily or of the lazzaroni of Naples." 
His enemies declared that he spoke no known language 
at all, but a mysterious jargon mixed with cabalistic 

One day being pressed by the Comtesse de Brienne 
to explain the origin of a life so surprising and 
mysterious, he replied, with a laugh, that ''he was 
born in the Red Sea and brought up in the shadow of 
the Pyramids by a good old man who had taken care 
of him when he was abandoned by his parents, and 

^ A cryptic reference to the Secret Societies, which were the real 
source of his wealth. The great success of Egyptian Masonry, of 
which the above-mentioned gentlemen were the bankers, more than 
compensated him for what he lost by the < suppression of the 
Illumines in 1784, the year before he came to Paris. 



from whom he had learnt all he knew." But Mirabeau 
states that *' M. de Nordberg, who had travelled much 
in the East, once addressed him some words in Arabic 
of which he did not understand one word." 

The mystery in which he purposely enveloped 
himself, and which became the deeper the more it was 
probed, coupled with the wonders he performed, 
recalled the famous Count de Saint- Germain, who 
had created a similar sensation some twenty years 
before. Of the life, family or country of this 
mysterious individual nothing was ever known. Of 
many suppositions the most popular was that he was 
the son of a xoydl femme galante — Marie de Neubourg, 
widow of the last King of Spain of the House of 
Austria — and a Jewish banker of Bordeaux. Louis XV, 
who had a particular predilection for men of his stamp 
and was probably perfectly acquainted with his history, 
employed him for a time on secret diplomatic missions 
and gave him apartments at Chambord. His fasci- 
nating manners, good looks, lavish expenditure and 
mysterious antecedents attracted attention wherever 
he went. 

In London, where he lived for a couple of years, 
he excited great curiosity. '* He was called," says 
Walpole, ''an Italian, a Spaniard, a Pole, a nobody 
that married a great fortune in Mexico and ran away 
with her jewels to Constantinople." 

These jewels were the admiration of all who 
beheld them. Madame de Hausset, the companion of 
Madame de Pompadour, to whom he showed them 
once, believed them to be false. Gleichen, however, 
who was a connoisseur of precious stones, '' could 
discern no reason to doubt their genuineness." Like 



Cagliostro in Paris 

Cagliostro, who gave a diamond valued at 20,000 
livres to Cardinal de Rohan, Saint-Germain made a 
present of one to Louis XV worth 10,000 livres. 

The secrecy he observed in regard to his origin 
appears in the beginning to have been due less to 
any intention to mystify the public than to a strong 
sense of humour. In an age when a supernatural 
significance was attached to anything that appeared 
mysterious, he was at once credited with occult powers 
which he never claimed to possess. Urged by a 
whim to see how far he could play upon the credulity 
of the public, he found the role of wonder-man so 
congenial that he never attempted to adopt another. 

A particular talent for romancing, aided by a 
wonderful memory, enabled him to doctor up the 
marvellous to suit the taste of his hearers. He 
described people and places of the distant past with a 
minuteness of detail that produced the impression that 
he had been personally acquainted with them. As 
many were foolish enough to take him literally, all 
sorts of fabulous stories were circulated about him. 

** I amuse myself," he once confessed to Gleichen, 
who reproved him for encouraging the belief that he 
had lived from time immemorial, '* not by making 
people believe what I wish, but by letting them believe 
what they wish. These fools of Parisians declare that 
I am five hundred, and I confirm them in the idea 
since it pleases them." 

The least credulous believed him to be at least a 
hundred. Madame de Pompadour said to him once 
that old Madame de Gergy remembered having met 
him fifty years before in Venice when he passed for 
a man of sixty. 



** I never like to contradict a lady," he replied, 
**but it is just possible that Madame de Gergy is in' 
her dotage." 

Even his valet was supposed to have discovered 
the secret of immortality. This fellow, a veritable 
Scapin, assisted him admirably in mystifying the 

"Your master," said a sceptic one day, seizing him 
by the collar, **is a rogue who is taking us all in. 
Tell me, is it true that he was present at the marriage 
of Cana.?" 

**You forget, sir," was the reply, ** I have only 
been in his service a century." 

Many of the most amazing stories circulated about 
Cagliostro were merely a repetition of those related 
twenty years before of Saint-Germain. The recollec- 
tion of Saint-Germain's reputed longevity led to the 
bestowal of a similar attribute to his successor. Thus 
it was reported that Cagliostro stopped one day before 
a ** Descent from the Cross " in the Louvre and began 
to talk of the Crucifixion as if he had witnessed it. 
Though the story was devoid of foundation it was 
not without effect, and many declared, and believed 
too, that the Grand Cophta had lived hundreds, 
and even thousands of years. Cagliostro, it is 
but fair to add, complained bitterly of this at his 

On the strength of the close resemblance in the 
mystery and the stories concerning Saint-Germain and 
Cagliostro, as well as their alchemical knowledge — 
for Saint-Germain, needless to say, was credited with 
having discovered the philosopher's stone — Grimm 
believed Cagliostro to have been the valet alluded 


Cagliostro in Paris 

to above. There is, however, not the least evidence 
that the paths of the two men ever crossed ^ 

Great though the influence that an impenetrable 
mystery and so-called supernatural phenomena always 
exercise over the human mind, their appeal, even when 
credulity reaches the pitch it did in 1785, will never 
alone provoke interest so extraordinary as that taken 
in Cagliostro. It is only a very powerful and magnetic 
personality that is able to fix such curiosity and to 
excite such admiration. It is, moreover, equally 
certain, that had he been such a man as Carlyle has 
painted him, history would never have heard of him, 
much less remembered him. 

Speaking of Cagliostro's physiognomy, he describes 
it as " a most portentous face of scoundrelism ; a fat 
snub, abominable face ; dew-lapped, flat-nosed, greasy, 
full of greediness, sensuality, ox-like obstinacy ; the 
most perfect quack-face produced by the eighteenth 

It is the ignorance of his subject, be it said, 
rather than the violence of his prejudice, which 
such statements as this reveal that have deprived 
Carlyle's opinion of Cagliostro of any value in the 
estimation of modern writers.^ There is plenty of 
reliable information, to which Carlyle had access, to 

1 De Luchet's fantastic account of the visit paid by Cagliostro 
and his wife to Saint-Germain in Germany, and their subsequent 
initiation by him into the sect of the Rosicrucians, of which he was 
supposed to be the chief, is devoid of all authenticity. 

2 D'Almdras and Funck-Brentano — the latter extremely careless 
when writing of Cagliostro — never so much as mention Carlyle. 



prove that Cagliostro's appearance was anything but 

Beugnot, who has described him with more mockery 
than any of his contemporaries, says *'he was of 
medium height, rather stout, with an olive complexion, 
a short neck, round face, a broad turned-up nose, and 
two large eyes." From all accounts his eyes were 
remarkable. '* I cannot describe his physiognomy," 
says the Marquise de Crequy, *'for he had twelve or 
fifteen at his disposal. But no two eyes like his were 
ever seen ; and his teeth were superb." Laborde 
speaks of *' his eyes of fire which pierced to the 
bottom of the soul." Another writer declares that 
''his glance was like a gimlet." 

All the contemporary documents that speak of 
him — and they are hostile with very few exceptions — 
refer to the powerful fascination that he exercised on 
all who approached him. The impression he produced 
upon the intellectual Countess von der Recke has 
already been referred to. Like her, Laborde, Motus, 
and others considered that his countenance ''indicated 

Cardinal de Rohan told Georgel that on seeing 
him for the first time "he discovered in his physiog- 
nomy a dignity so imposing that he felt penetrated 
with awe." 

"He was not, strictly speaking, handsome," says 
Madame d'Oberkirch, who certainly was not one of 
his admirers, " but never have I seen a more remark- 
able face. His glance was so penetrating that one 
might be almost tempted to call it supernatural. I 
could not describe the expression of his eyes — it was, 
so to speak, a mixture of flame and ice. It attracted 




Cagliostro in Paris 

and repelled at the same time, and inspired, whilst it 
terrified, an insurmountable curiosity. I cannot deny- 
that Cagliostro possessed an almost demoniacal power, 
and it was with difficulty that I tore myself from 
a fascination I could not comprehend, but whose 
influence I could not deny." 

Lavater, whose unfavourable opinion seems to be 
due to the contemptuous way in which Cagliostro 
received him, nevertheless thought him **a man such 
as few are." 

Beugnot, after ridiculing him as " moulded for 
the express purpose of playing the part of a clown," 
confesses that ''his face, his attire — the whole man, in 
fact, impressed him in spite of himself." 

If, as Meiners and other hostile contemporaries 
assert, '' he spoke badly all the languages he pro- 
fessed to know," there is not the least reason to infer, 
like Carlyle, that ''he was wholly intelligible to no 
mortal," or that "what thought, what resemblance of 
thought he had, could not deliver itself, except in 
gasps, blustering gushes, spasmodic refluences which 
made bad worse." 

Michelet — Carlyle's brilliant and equally learned 
contemporary — regarded him as " a veritable sorcerer 
possessed of great eloquence." Even the bitter In- 
quisition-biographer confessed that he was " marvel- 
lously eloquent." Motus declared that "his eloquence 
fascinated and subjugated one, even in the languages 
he spoke least well." "If gibberish can be sublime," 
says Beugnot, " Cagliostro was sublime. When he 
began any subject he seemed carried away with 
it, and spoke impressively in a ringing, sonorous 



The beauty of the Countess Cagliostro was also an 
important element in the success of her husband. 
She was like a sylph with her fluffy straw-coloured 
hair, which she wore unpowdered, her large, deep, soft 
blue eyes, her small and delicately chiselled nose, her 
full rose-red lips, and a dazzlingly white skin. 

*' She is an angel in human form," said Maitre 
Polverit, by whom she was defended when she was im- 
prisoned in the Bastille on the charge of being impli- 
cated in the Necklace Affair, *'who has been sent on 
earth to share and soften the days of the Man of 
Marvels. Beautiful with a beauty that never belonged 
to any woman, she cannot be called a model of tender- 
ness, sweetness and resignation — no ! for she does not 
even suspect the existence of any other qualities." 
And the judges evidently agreed, for they ordered her 
release without a trial. 

Motus describes her as ** a beautiful and modest 
person and as charitable as her husband." She was 
fond of dress, and her diamonds were the talk of Paris. 
The Countess de Lamotte at her trial declared that 
" Madame de Cagliostro's display of jewelry scandal- 
ized respectable women, as well as those who were not." 
It is scarcely necessary, however, to observe that 
Madame de Lamotte saw the Countess through her 
hatred of Cagliostro. To make a display of jewelry 
at that period did not cause the least scandal. The 
Countess, moreover, was a fine horsewoman, and 
mounted on her black mare Djerid attracted attention 
quite apart from the fact that she was the wife of 

Uneducated — she could not write ; though from 
mixing in the best society she had acquired the 




Cagliostro in Paris 

manners of a lady — she was one of those women who 
always remain a child. In the over-civilized, cynical, 
and hysterical age in which she lived, her ingenuous 
chatter passed for a new type of spirituality, and her 
ignorance for candour. That was the secret of her 
charm. As all the world lacked it, candour was a 

*' The admiration she excited," says one writer, 
'' was most ardent among those who had never seen 
her. There were duels over her, duels proposed and 
accepted as to the colour of her eyes, which neither of 
the adversaries knew, or as to whether a dimple was 
on her right cheek or on her left." 

Needless to say, scandal did not fail to attack her 
reputation. The enemies of Cagliostro were quick to 
accuse her of light conduct, and her husband of en- 
couraging it. The Cardinal was popularly supposed 
to be her lover. The Countess de Lamotte asserted 
that she specially distinguished a Chevalier d'Oisemont 
among a crowd of admirers. But, as Gleichen says in 
reference to her supposed infidelity, ''why suppose 
without proof?" Of Cagliostro's devotion to her at 
least there is no doubt. So little is known of her 
character that it is impossible to speak of it with any 
certainty ; but considering the admiration that all agree 
she inspired and the numerous temptations she had to 
desert him when fortune turned against him, the fact 
that she stuck to him to the end is a pretty strong 
argument in favour of both her fidelity and affection. 

Owing to her girlish appearance, the age of the 
lovely Countess was a subject of considerable specula- 
tion. It is said, though with what truth cannot be 
stated, that " she occasionally spoke of a son who was a 



captain in the service of the Dutch government." As 
this made her at least forty when she did not appear to 
be twenty, a credulous public was ready to see in her 
a living witness to the efficacy of her husband's 
rejuvenating powders and elixir of life. De Luchet, 
who is responsible for the story, asserts that she added 
to her age expressly to advertise Cagliostro's quack- 

Like Saint-Germain's valet, she was also credited 
with a share of her husband's supernatural endowments. 
According to certain unauthenticated information, she 
was the Grand Mistress of the I sis lodge for women, 
which among other conditions of membership included 
a subscription of one hundred louis. This lodge is 
said to have been composed of thirty-six ladies of rank, 
who joined it for the purpose of being taught magic by 
the wife of Cagliostro. The report widely circulated 
by de Luchet, of the obscene character of the 
"evocations," is devoid of the least authenticity. It is 
doubtful, indeed, whether such a lodge ever existed at 
all. Madame de Genlis, who figures in de Luchet's 

* If it be true that the Count and Countess Cagliostro were 
really Giuseppe and Lorenza Balsam o, surely the remarkable change 
in the appearance^ not to speak of the character, of both, must be 
regarded as the most astonishing of all Cagliostro's prodigies. The 
impression he produced from the accounts given above was totally 
different from that which Balsamo was said to have produced. As 
for his wife, it is preposterous to expect any one to believe that the 
pretty demirep Lorenza would have looked as girlish and fresh as the 
Countess Seraphina after fifteen years of the sort of life she led with 
Giuseppe. As vice and hardship have never yet been regarded as 
aids to beauty, those who persist in pinning their faith to the Balsamo 
legend will perhaps assent to the suggestion that Cagliostro's remedies 
possessed virtues hitherto denied them. 



Cagliostro in Paris 

list of members, never so much as mentions the 
Cagliostros in her memoirs. 


Needless to say, Cagliostro did not fail to turn the 
prodigious furore he created to the account of Egyptian 
Masonry. Not long after his arrival in Paris a lodge 
Was established at the residence of one of his followers 
in a room specially set apart for the purpose and 
furnished, says the Inquisition-biographer, *' with 
unparalleled magnificence." Here from time to time 
the " seven angels of the Egyptian Paradise, who 
stand round the throne of God — Anael, Michael, 
Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Zobriachel, and Hanachiel 
(with whom the Grand Cophta was a special favourite) 
** condescended to appear to the faithful." 

Cagliostro also opened another lodge in his own 
house, when the angels came at the bidding of other 
members besides the Grand Cophta. It was not long 
before similar phenomena were witnessed in all the 
Egyptian lodges. In a remarkable letter of an adept 
of the lodge at Lyons found in Cagliostro's papers at 
the time of his arrest in Rome, the writer, in describing 
a ceremony held there, said that ''the first philosopher 
of the New Testament appeared without being called, 
and gave the entire assembly, prostrate before the blue 
cloud in which he appeared, his lessing. Moreover " 
(adds the writer), " two great prophets and the legislator 
of Israel have given us similar convincing signs of 
their good-will." 

It is from Cagliostro's ability " to transmit his 
powers," as it was termed, that the singular phenomena 



of modern spiritualism were developed. In reality it 
was nothing more or less than the discovery of the 
'' psychic " — the word must serve for want of a better 
— properties latent in every human being, and which 
in many are capable of a very high degree of develop- 
ment. This discovery, till then unimagined, was the 
secret of the veneration in which Cagliostro was 
regarded by his followers. 

Notwithstanding the very high development to 
which Cagliostro's own " psychic " powers had now 
attained, one gathers the impression from his own 
utterances that he never completely understood them. 
A link between the old conception of magic and the 
new theosophical theories, there are many indica- 
tions that he regarded the phenomena he performed 
as direct manifestations of divine power. In an 
age of unbelief he always spoke of God with the 
greatest respect, even in circles in which it was the 
fashion to decry the goodness as well as the exist- 
ence of the Supreme Being. Like all the mystics of 
the eighteenth century, he was deistic. *'A11 duty, 
according to him," says Georgel, " was based on the 
principle : Never do to others what you would not 
wish them to do to you." One of the first things seen 
on entering his house in Paris was a slab of black 
marble on which was engraved in gold letters Pope's 
Universal Prayer. 

Historians who have been inclined to treat him 
leniently as the loyal agent of a revolutionary sect are 
horrified that he ** should have effaced the dignity of the 
enthusiast behind the trickeries of the necromancer." 
Louis Blanc, who preached a perpetual crusade against 
thrones and altars, and despised occultism, declares 



Cagliostro in Paris 

that Cagllostro's phenomena '* cast suspicion on his 
own ideals, and were a veritable crime against the 
cause he proclaimed to be holy, and which there was 
no necessity to associate with shameful falsehoods." 

The charge is a very just one. The bitterness 
with which Cagliostro has been regarded for a hundred 
years is due less to the calumnies with which he was 
assailed in his life — and which till the present no one 
has dreamt of investigating — than to the belief that he 
debased his ideals. As his " psychic " powers developed 
it cannot be denied that he attached a significance to 
them that, in the opinion of thoughtful people, was 
calculated to render his motives suspect. His real 
imposture was not in cheating people of their money 
or faking miracles, but in encouraging the belief that 
he was a supernatural being — ** I am that I am," as 
he is said to have described himself profanely on one 
occasion. Intoxicated by his amazing success, he lost 
all sense of proportion. The means which he had 
begun to employ in MIttau to justify his end all but 
effaced the end itself in Paris. 

To attract followers he was no longer content to 
gratify the passion for the marvellous, but sought to 
stimulate it. To enhance the effect of his phenomena 
he had recourse to artifices worthy of a mountebank. 

The room In which his stances were held contained 
statuettes of Isis, Anubis, and the ox Apis. The walls 
were covered with hieroglyphics, and two lacqueys, 
" clothed like Egyptian slaves as they are represented 
on the monuments at Thebes," were in attendance to 
arrange the screen behind which xh^ pupilles or colombes 
sat, the carafe or mirror Into which they gazed, or to 
perform any other service that was required, 
p 209 


To complete the mise en scene, Cagliostro wore a 
robe of black silk on which hieroglyphics were em- 
broidered in red. His head was covered with an Arab 
turban of cloth of gold ornamented with jewels. A 
chain of emeralds hung en sautoir upon his breast, to 
which scarabs and cabalistic symbols of all colours in 
metal were attached. A sword with a handle shaped 
like a cross was suspended from a belt of red silk. 

•' In this costume," says Figuier, '' the Grand 
Cophta looked so imposing that the whole assembly 
felt a sort of terror when he appeared." 

The manner in which Cagliostro dressed and con- 
ducted himself in public was equally designed to attract 
attention, though it was scarcely of the sort he desired. 
A writer who saw him walking one day followed by an 
admiring band of street-arabs says ''he was wearing a 
coat of blue silk braided along the seams ; his hair in 
powdered knots was gathered up in a net ; his shoes 
a la d'Artois were fastened with jewelled buckles, his 
stockings studded with gold buttons ; rubies and 
diamonds sparkled on his fingers, and on the frill of 
his shirt ; from his watch-chain hung a diamond drop, 
a gold key adorned with diamonds, and an agate seal 
— all of which, in conjunction with his flowered waist- 
coat and musketeer hat with a white plume, produced 
an instantaneous effect." 

The Marquise de Cr^quy, Beugnot, and nearly all 
his contemporaries allude to the fantastic manner in 
which he dressed as well as to his colossal vanity, 
which, inflated by success, rendered him not only 
ridiculous to those whom he failed to fascinate, but 
even insufferable. Pompous in Mittau, he became 
arrogant, domineering, and choleric in Paris. Flattery, 


Cagliostro in Paris 

to which he had always been peculiarly susceptible, 
at last became to him like some drug by which he 
was enslaved. He could not tolerate criticism or 
contradiction. '' The Chevalier de Montbruel," says 
Beugnot, '' a veteran of the green-room, and ready to 
affirm anything, was always at hand to bear witness to 
Cagliostro's cures, offering himself as an example 
cured of I do not know how many maladies with 
names enough to frighten one." 

However, Cagliostro was never so spoilt by 
success, never so compromised by the tricks and 
devices to which he stooped to perform his wonders, 
as to lose sight of his ideal. Had he been the vulgar 
cheat, the sordid impostor it is customary to depict him, 
he would have contented himself with the subscrip- 
tions paid by the members of the lodges he founded 
and have ceased to insist on the ethical character 
of Egyptian Masonry. In 1785 a religious element 
was calculated to repel rather than to attract. It was 
the wonder-man, and not the idealist, in whom Paris 
was interested. But instead of taking the line of least 
resistance, so to speak, Cagliostro deliberately adopted 
a course that could not fail to make enemies rather 
than friends. 

Far from dropping the religious and moral character 
of the Egyptian Rite, he laid greater stress on it than 
ever, and claimed for his sect a superiority over all the 
others of Freemasonry, on the ground that it was 
based on the mysteries of Isis and Anubis which he 
had brought from the East. As no one ever ventured 
to regard him as a fool as well as a knave, it is impos- 
sible to question his sincerity in the matter. At once 
the seventy-two Masonic lodges of Paris rose in arms 
p 2 211 


against him. He managed, however, to triumph over 
all opposition. At a meeting held for the purpose of 
expounding the dogmas of Egyptian Masonry *'his 
eloquence was so persuasive," says Figuier, *' that he 
completely converted to his views the large and 
distinguished audience he addressed." 

From the respect that Cagliostro thus exacted 
and obtained, Egyptian Masonry acquired an im- 
portance in France not unlike that of the Illumines 
in Germany. Nothing proves this so well as the 
Congress of Philaletes, or the Seekers of Truth. 

This Masonic body was composed of members of 
Swedenborgian and Martinist lodges affiliated to 
Illuminism. Its character was at once occult and 
political. On the detection and suppression of the 
Illumines, in 1784, the Philaletes, organized by 
Savalette de Langes, a revolutionary mystic, sought 
to finish in France the work which Weishaupt had 
begun in Germany. As an old Illuming Savalette de 
Langes was well acquainted with Cagliostro, and the 
importance he attached to him was so great that he 
desired to incorporate the sect of Egyptian Masonry 
in that of the Philaletes. He accordingly summoned 
a congress of Philaletes to which Cagliostro was invited 
to explain his doctrine. 

The ambitions and aspirations of the Grand 
Cophta had kept pace with the steadily rising fortunes 
of Egyptian Masonry. He was quick to perceive the 
immense advantage to be derived from a union of the 
organization of which he was the head with that of the 
Philaletes, who were one of the most numerous and in- 
fluential of the Masonic sects. But he had no inten- 
tion of playing second fiddle to them, and in replying 



Cagliostro in Paris 

to their invitation he assumed that they were prepared 
to acknowledge the superiority of the Egyptian Rite. 
So with pompous condescension, which was as astute as 
it was bizarre, he informed them that '' having deigned 
to extend to them his hand and consented to cast a 
ray of light upon the darkness of their Temple, he 
requested them as a sign of their submission to the 
truths of Egyptian Masonry to burn their archives." 

Though taken aback by such an answer, the Phila- 
letes did not abandon the hope of coming to some 
satisfactory arrangement. But Cagliostro proved too 
clever for them, and in the series of interviews and 
negotiations which followed they were completely over- 
awed and over-reached. For a moment it seemed as 
if Freemasonry in general was to be restored to '' its 
original Egyptian character," and that Cagliostro would 
realize his sublime ideal, perform the greatest of all 
his prodigies, and '' evoke " the Revolution, which the 
noblest minds in Europe had dreamt of for a hundred 

But life has her great ironies as well as her little 
ones. Suddenly, to the rapt enthusiast on the Pisgah- 
peak of his ambition the shadow of the Revolution did 
indeed appear. Not the benign genius it was fondly 
imagined to be before 1789 : herald of freedom and the 
golden age ; but the monstrous demon of calumny, 
hatred and terror : the shadow of the Revolution as it 
was to be, claiming its victims in advance. 

Before the Philaletes and the Egyptian Masons 
could effect their union, the Diamond Necklace Affair 
was to destroy all Cagliostro's dreams and projects. 




Few subjects have been more written about, more 
discussed than the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. 
The defences alone of those involved in this cause 
cdlebre fill two big volumes. All the memoirs of the 
period contain more or less detailed accounts of it ; 
in every history of France it occupies a chapter to 
itself; and as it suggests romance even more than 
history, novelists and dramatists alike have often 
exercised their imagination upon its entanglements. 

To re-tell in detail this romance, to rehearse this 
drama in which the happiness and reputations of all 
who figure in it were destroyed, does not come within 
the scope of this book. For the chief interest it 
excites is focussed on the star — the Comtesse de 
Lamotte-Valois — who dominates the scene from first 
to last. It is only in the last act that Cagliostro 
appears. Nevertheless, the part he played was so 
important that a brief rhumd of the action preceding 
his appearance is necessary to enable the reader to I 
understand how he came to be involved in the * 

Nature had specially cast Madame de Lamotte for 
the part she played in this drama. Descended from 
the Valois through a natural son of Henry II, her 
family had sunk into a state of abject poverty. At her 


{After Robinet) 

I To/uc.'MK' 

The Diamond Necklace Affair 

birth her father was reduced to poaching for a livelihood 
on his former ancestral estate. He eventually died in 
the Hotel Dieu, the famous hospital for the indigent 
founded by Madame de Pompadour. Madame de 
Lamotte herself as a child was a barefoot beggar on 
the highway. It was in this condition that she first 
attracted the attention of the Marquise de Boulain- 
villiers, who out of pity gave her a home, educated her 
as well as her brother and sister, and afterwards 
obtained a small pension for them from Louis XVI. 

Being naturally extremely precocious and intelligent, 
Jeanne de Saint-Remy, as she was called, did not 
neglect her opportunities. It was her misfortune, 
however, to derive but small profit from them. 
Having flirted with the wrong people — her bene- 
factress's husband and a bishop — she married the 
wrong man. Lamotte was good-looking, of a 
respectable family, and crippled with debt. Unable 
to support himself and his wife on his pay as a 
subaltern in the army, he resigned his commission, 
adopted the title of Count — to which he had a shadowy 
claim — added Valois to his name, and went to Paris to 
seek fortune, where the Countess made the most of 
her wits and her looks. 

The expedient to which she most frequently 
resorted was to pester well-known people with petitions, 
in which she sought to have the claim she had set up 
to the lands of her ancestors recognized. As by some 
extraordinary coincidence the Crown had recently 
acquired these lands, she had, she hoped, only to find 
the right person to take up her cause to triumph in the 
end. Among those to whom she appealed was 
Cardinal de Rohan. His Eminence, who was both 


sympathetic and susceptible, manifested the greatest 
pity for the young and charming Countess whose 
condition was in such a contrast to her illustrious birth. 
He was amazed that the Court should so neglect a 
descendant of Henri H, and promised readily to 
support her claim. A few days later in his capacity as 
Grand Almoner of France, he sent his interesting 
protdgde 2,400 livres as an earnest of his intention. 
As gratitude and necessity caused the suppliant to 
renew her visits frequently, the impression she 
produced on the Cardinal deepened. His pride as 
well as his sensuality urged him to protect a woman 
as fascinating and distinguished as she was unfortunate. 
He entered into her views, gave her advice ; and even 
confided to her his own grievances and desires. 

With all his splendour his Eminence was what Is 
known as a disappointed man. It was his ambition 
to play a conspicuous part in affairs of state. To 
flatter him the sycophants who surrounded him were 
in the habit of comparing his abilities to those of 
Richelieu, Mazarin, and Fleury, the three great 
Cardinals who had governed France. It was more 
than his right, it was his duty, they told him, to become 
First Minister. In reality he was utterly unfitted for 
such a position, though not more so than Calonne and 
Lomenie de Brienne, the last two ministers to govern 
the state under the ancien rdgime. Rohan, however, 
intoxicated by flattery, believed what he was told ; and 
his desire for power developed into a passion, a fixed 

One obstacle alone stood between him and the 
pursuit of his ambition — Marie Antoinette ; a fasci- 
nating and dazzling obstacle to this consecrated 



The Diamond Necklace Affair 

voluptuary, so dazzling that it became confused in his 
mind with the summit from which it kept him. He 
did not bear the Queen the slightest resentment for 
her animosity to him. He was aware that it had 
been imparted to her by her mother Maria Theresa, 
at whose instance he had been recalled from Vienna 
twelve years before. He felt certain that if he could 
but meet her, get into communication with her, he could 
win her esteem. Unfortunately Marie Antoinette's 
contempt extended to Louis XVI. Versailles was 
thus closed to the Cardinal. He was never seen there 
but once a year, on Assumption Day, in his role of 
Grand Almoner, when he celebrated mass in the 
Royal Chapel. 

The confidences of her protector gave the 
Countess de Lamotte more than an insight into his 
character. In the vanity and credulity they revealed, 
her alert and cunning mind saw a Golconda of 
possibilities which not only her necessity but her 
genius for intrigue urged her to exploit.^ By 
circulating rumours of her friendship with the Queen, 
to which her frequent journeys to Versailles in search 
of some influential person to present her petition to 
the King gave weight, she had obtained credit from 
tradespeople. To cause this rumour to glide to the 
ears of his Eminence was easy. And as people 
generally believe what flatters them, when Madame 
de Lamotte spoke of the interest that the Queen took 
in him, an interest that circumstances compelled her 

^ It is the custom to brand the Countess de Lamotte as infamous, 
and judged by moral standards she certainly was. The amazing 
spirit and inventions she displayed, however, give a finish to her 
infamy that suggest the artist as well as the mere adventuress. 



to conceal, the dissipated, amorous Cardinal, too vain 
to dream any one would deceive him, listened and 
believed all he was told. 

Thus began the famous series of violet-tinted 
letters which during May, June, and July, 1784, passed 
between Marie Antoinette and Rohan. This corre- 
spondence of which the Queen, needless to say, had 
not the least inkling, becoming as it proceeded less 
and less cold and reserved, inflamed all the desires that 
fermented in the heart of the Cardinal. In this way it 
was the simplest thing in the world for the Countess 
de Lamotte to induce him to send the Queen through 
her '* 60,000 livres out of the Almonry funds for a poor 
family in whom her Majesty was interested." 

As Marie Antoinette continued to be " short of 
cash," Rohan, who was himself heavily in debt and 
had misappropriated into the bargain the funds of 
various institutions of which he was the trustee, was 
obliged to borrow the money the Queen was supposed 
to be in need of from the Jews. His Eminence, how- 
ever, at length became restive under these incessant 
demands for money. He even began to suspect that 
the Queen might be playing him false, and in spite of 
all the Countess's explanations demanded some visible 
proof of the interest she professed to manifest in him. 

It was at this juncture, when it seemed as if the 
game was up, that Lamotte, walking in the garden of 
the Palais Royal, met by accident an unfortunate female 
whose face bore a perfect resemblance to that of the 
Queen.^ To such an intrigante as the Countess, this 

1 All contemporaries are agreed on this point. " Same figure, 
same complexion, same hair, a resemblance of physiognomy of the 
most striking kind," says Target, who defended the Cardinal at his trial, 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

resemblance was sufficient material out of which to 
forge a fresh chain for the Cardinal. On August ii, 
1784, between ten and eleven at night, "the un- 
fortunate female " — Mile. Leguay, Baroness d'Olivaor 
whatever she called herself — having been carefully- 
trained and paid to represent Marie Antoinette, gave 
the Cardinal," disguised as a mousquetaire," a meeting 
in the park of Versailles, a meeting which the Coun- 
tess de Lamotte was careful to interrupt ere it began, 
giving his Eminence barely time to kiss the hand of 
the supposed Queen, who as she was hurried away 
flung the kneeling prelate a rose as a token of her 
affection and esteem. 

To Rohan that fleeting vision of the Queen of 
France served as the proof he had demanded. Hence- 
forth the dream of his diseased fancy enveloped him 
as in a veil. Obsessed by a single idea, he became the 
blind instrument of the consummate enchantress by 
whom he was bewitched. After his romantic rendez- 
vous in the park of Versailles, he advanced confidently 
and triumphantly to the abyss into which he was 
destined to plunge, without looking to the right or to 
the left, and seeing nothing but his vision of the Queen 
as she had dropped the rose at his feet. 

So complete was his thraldom, that later in the 
depth of his abasement, when he lay in the terrible 
solitude of the Bastille, charged with swindling a 
jeweller of a necklace, it was with difficulty that Rohan 
could bring himself to believe, not that he had been 
basely betrayed by the Queen, but duped by Madame 
de Lamotte. '' I was completely blinded by the 
immense desire I had to regain the favour of the 
Queen," he said at his trial, in reply to the observations 



of the judges how a man so cultivated, so intelligent, 
and even so able, as he unquestionably was — his 
embassy in Vienna had been a brilliant success — 
should have become the plaything of the Countess de 

'' His incredible credulity," says the Due de Levis, 
''was really the knot of the whole affair." However, 
it is not so incredible as it seems. The very fact of his 
intelligence partially explains it. As Suzanne says to 
Figaro in the Barber of Seville, '* intellectual men are 
fools," particularly when there is a woman in the case, 
and Madame de Lamotte was clever and fascinating 
enough to have turned the head of the Devil himself. 

As a result of this strategy the Countess managed 
to mulct the Cardinal of 150,000 livres. The figure 
that she cut on this money confirmed the rumours of 
her intimacy with the Queen, a circumstance she did 
not fail to turn to account. By paying those whom she 
owed she obtained from them and others still greater 
credit, whereby the foundations of the vast structure 
of deceit in which she lived were still further strength- 
ened and extended. She had no longer to ask for 
credit, it was offered to her, and people even came to 
implore her to use her boasted influence at Court in 
their behalf. Some silk merchants of Lyons, who 
desired the patronage of the Queen, sent her a case of 
superb stuffs valued at 10,000 livres. 

It was in this way that she became acquainted with 
Bohmer, the maker of the famous necklace. 

Except the Cardinal, it would be impossible to 
imagine a more ridiculous monomaniac than this Saxon 
Jew. For over ten years he had locked up his whole 
fortune in a ** matchless jewel " for which he was 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

unable to find a purchaser. Marie Antoinette, in 
particular, had been pestered to buy it, till her patience 
being exhausted she ordered Bohmer never to mention 
it to her again.^ He obeyed her, but none the less 
continued to hope she would change her mind. In the 
course of ten years this hope became a fixed idea, 
which he sought to realize by hook or crook. Thus 
hearing that Madame de Lamotte had great influence 
with the Queen, Bohmer came, like the silk merchants of 
Lyons and others, to purchase it if possible. 

It did not take the wily Countess long to gauge 
the credulity of her visitor, or to make up her mind 
that it was worth her while to exploit it. Needless to 
say, a woman clever enough to persuade the Grand 
Almoner of France that a fille de joie of the Palais 
Royal from whom he had received a rose in the park 
of Versailles was Marie Antoinette, would have no 
difficulty in getting possession of Bohmer's necklace. 

The Cardinal, who had been marking time, so to 
speak, at Saverne ever since his adventure, was hastily 
summoned to Paris to perform a service for her 
Majesty concerning which she enjoined the strictest 
secrecy. When Rohan, who had travelled post in a 
blizzard, discovered what the service was he was 
staggered. No wonder. The Queen, he was informed, 
wished him to be her security for the purchase of the 

^ Marie Antoinette is said to have told Bohmer she could not 
afford to buy it, but with her well-known extravagance and passion 
for diamonds one cannot help thinking she would have found the 
means had the necklace really appealed to her. The fact that 
Bohmer could find no purchaser suggests that he had as Uttle taste 
as brains. The Cardinal, who like the Queen knew a beautiful 
object when he saw it, thought the necklace anything but a beautiful 
ornament, and when told that the Queen wanted it, wondered what 
she could see in it. 



necklace, for which she had agreed to pay 1,600,000 
Hvres (^64,000) in four instalments of equal amounts 
at intervals of six months. Madame de Lamotte, 
however, succeeded in persuading him to affix his 
signature to the necessary documents — and in 
due course Bohmer's '' matchless jewel " was in her 

It did not take her long '' to break it up," as Marie 
Antoinette had advised Bohmer to do years before. 
Her manner of disposing of the diamonds, which she 
** picked from the setting with a knife," was itself a 
romance. But it is impossible in so hurried a rdsumd 
of this imbroglio to enter into any particulars that 
have no connection whatever with Cagliostro. 

The ddnouement arrived six months later when the 
first instalment of 400,000 livres became due. Madame 
de Lamotte awaited it with perfect indifference. She 
had involved the Cardinal too deeply to have any 
fears for herself. The very peril to which he was 
exposed was her safety. At all costs Rohan would be 
obliged to pay for the necklace to prevent a scandal. 

She made a mistake, however, in not informing 
him in time that the Queen was not in a position to 
pay the instalment, whereby as her security the 
liability devolved on him. For never dreaming that 
such a contingency was possible, he was utterly unpre- 
pared for it when it came. Crippled with debt, he was 
unable to put his hand on 400,000 livres at a moment's 
notice. The difficulty he found in raising the sum 
made Bohmer so nervous that he consulted Madame 
Campan, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting. She 
informed the jeweller that he was mad if he imagined 
the Queen had bought his necklace. Hereupon 



The Diamond Necklace Affair 

Bohmer in great agitation rushed off to Madame de 
Lamotte, who coolly informed him she suspected he 
was being victimized. 

*' But," she added reassuringly, '' the Cardinal is, 
as you know, very rich ; he will pay. Go to him." 

This was a master-stroke ; for the Countess had as 
much reason to believe that Bohmer would take her 
advice as that the Cardinal, to avoid a scandal which 
meant his ruin, would assume the entire responsibility 
of the purchase of the necklace. Unfortunately, the 
distracted jeweller instead of going to the Cardinal 
tottered off to the King ! 

By a dramatic coincidence it was Assumption 
Day, the one day in the year on which the Cardinal 
was entitled to appear at Versailles, when as Grand 
Almoner he celebrated mass to which the Royal 
Family always went in state. He and the Court were 
waiting in the Oeil-de-Boeuf for the King and Queen 
to appear in order to accompany them to the Chapel 
of St. Louis, when a door opened and a chamberlain 
summoned his Eminence to the sovereign. Every- 
body knows what followed. Bohmer, having obtained 
an audience of Louis XVI, had related to that amazed 
monarch all the details of the transaction by which the 
necklace had been bought for the Queen. This story, 
repeated in the presence of Marie Antoinette, whose 
honesty and virtue it alike impugned, stung her to 
fury. Exasperated though she was by Bohmer's 
assertion that she had purchased his necklace, which 
for ten years she had refused to do, she might never- 
theless have excused him on the ground of his insanity. 
But when he charged her with having employed 
Rohan, whom she hated, to purchase the necklace 



through a confidante of whom she had never heard, 
she was transported with indignation. Forgetting 
that she was a Queen, which she did too often, she 
remembered only that she was a woman, and without 
thinking of the consequences, insisted that the Cardinal 
should be arrested and her reputation publicly vindi- 
cated. Louis XVI, whose misfortune it was to be 
guided by her when he shouldn't, and never when he 
should — a misfortune that in the end was to cost him 
crown and life — at once ordered the arrest of the 
Grand Almoner, who, attired in his pontifical robes, 
was carried off then and there to the Bastille like a 
common criminal before the eyes of the entire Court. 

The arrest of the Cardinal ^ was in due course 
followed by that of the Countess de Lamotte, 
Cagliostro and his wife, the '' Baroness d'Oliva," who 
had acted the part of the Queen in the park of 
Versailles, R^teaux de Vilette, who had forged the 
Queen's letters to Rohan, and several others on whom 
suspicion had fallen. " The Bastille," as Carlyle says, 
" opened its iron bosom to them all."^ 

Such in brief is the story of the rape of the 
Diamond Necklace. 

The trial that followed has been justly described as 
the prologue of the Revolution. To the calumnies it 
gave birth may be traced the hatred which engendered 
the Reign of Terror. 

1 The Cardinal was arrested on the 15th, and Cagliostro on the 
23rd August, 1785. 

2 Lamotte alone succeeded in escaping. 


{From a Frciuh />> 

The Diamond Necklace Affair 

''Calumny," says M. Chaix d'Est-Ange in his 
brilliant monograph on the Necklace Affair, " is 
common to all ages, but it has not always the same force 
and success. In times when public opinion is indiffer- 
ent or feeble it is despised and powerless. At other 
periods more favourable to it, borne on the wings of 
passion it soars aloft strong, confident, and triumphant. 
If ever it was a power it was in the eighteenth 

''It was everywhere," says de Goncourt, "under 
the roofs of courtiers and blackmailers alike, in the 
bureaux of the police themselves, and even at the side 
of the Queen." 

Given such a state of society Marie Antoinette 
could have done nothing so calculated to injure herself 
as to cause the arrest of the Cardinal. If he deserved 
the Bastille it was not necessary to send him there. 
Though she may be excused for regarding him as a 
"vulgar swindler who stole diamonds to pay his 
debts," she should have remembered that he was also 
the head of one of the greatest houses in France. 
As soon as the news of his arrest was known there was 
but a single opinion in the salons of the nobility : 
" What, arrest the Grand Almoner of France in full 
pontificals before the whole Court for a bit of chiffon ! 
Send a Rohan and the chief of the clergy to the 
Bastille ! Cest trop ! " 

The malcontents of the Court recognized in this 
shameful disgrace the hand of the unpopular minister 
Breteuil, who was known to be the bitter enemy of the 

" M. de Breteuil," wrote Rivarol with truth, "has 
taken the Cardinal from the hands of Madame de 

Q 225 


Lamotte and crushed him on the forehead of the 
Queen, which will retain the marks." 

It was by his advice, indeed, that Louis XVI 
had been persuaded to gratify the rage of his reckless 
consort. The opportunity of ruining his enemy had 
been too great for Breteuil to resist. The weak- 
ness of the King, the unpopularity of the Queen and 
the faults of a blundering minister were thus alike 

''When a king has absolute power," says Chaix 
d'Est-Ange, **it is without doubt at such a time as this 
that he should use it to stifle scandal." The arrest of 
the Cardinal could only have been justified by his 
conviction. It was a question of his honour or the 
Queen's. Thirty years before it would have been an 
easy matter to find him guilty, but the spirit of dis- 
respect for a tyrannized and stupid authority which was 
beginning to assert itself everywhere made Rohan's 
conviction extremely difficult, if not altogether impos- 
sible. For Louis XVI, from a mistaken sense of equity 
which was interpreted as weakness, allowed the Parlia- 
ment to try him. 

This was the height of folly. For sixty years 
there had been war between the Court and the Parlia- 
ment. In the truce which had taken place on the 
accession of Louis XVI, the members had resumed 
their deliberations more imbued than ever with the 
spirit of resistance ; embittered by a long exile they 
regarded their recall as a victory. Thus to give the 
Parliament the power of determining the guilt or 
innocence of the Cardinal, which was in reality that of 
the Queen herself, was to take an acknowledged 
enemy for a judge. 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

When the news of the Cardinal's arrest reached the 
Parliament, one of the most popular members — he after- 
wards perished on the guillotine like most of them — 
cried out, rubbing his hands, " Grand and joyful busi- 
ness ! A Cardinal in a swindle ! The Queen impli- 
cated in a forgery ! Filth on the crook and on the 
sceptre ! What a triumph for ideas of liberty ! How 
important for the Parliament ! " 

In such circumstances it is not surprising that the 
trial of the Cardinal and his co-accuses should become, 
as Mirabeau wrote, '* the most serious affair in the 

The great family of Rohan left no stone unturned 
to save the honour of their name. To assist them — 
but inspired by quite other motives — they had all the 
enemies of the Queen and the Ministry, as well as the 
people who considered the Cardinal the victim of 
despotism. Women in particular were all for la Belle 
Eminence. It was the fashion to wear ribbons half red 
and half yellow, the former representing the Cardinal, 
the latter the straw on which he was supposed to lie in 
the Bastille. Cardinal sur la paille was the name of 
the ribbon, which was worn even in the palace of 
Versailles itself. 

To save the honour of the throne the Government 
was obliged to descend into the arena and fight the 
forces arrayed against it. The attention of the 
civilized world was thus riveted on the trial, which lasted 
nine months. No detail was kept secret, accounts 
were published daily in which the slightest incident 
was recorded. France and Europe were inundated 
with libels and calumnies in which the reputations of 
all concerned were torn to shreds. 
Q 2 227 


Throw enough mud and some of it is sure to stick. 
It took more than half a century to cleanse the honour 
of Marie Antoinette of all suspicion of connivance in 
the theft of the necklace. 

The mistrust that mystery and magic always 
inspire made Cagliostro with his fantastic personality 
an easy target for calumny. After having been riddled 
with abuse till he was unrecognizable, prejudice, the 
foster-child of calumny, proceeded to lynch him, so to 
speak. For over one hundred years his character has 
dangled on the gibbet of infamy, upon which the 
sbirri of tradition have inscribed a curse on any one 
who shall attempt to cut him down. 

His fate has been his fame. He is remembered in 
history, not so much for anything he did, as for what 
was done to him. The Diamond Necklace Affair, in 
which the old rdgime and the new met in their duel to 
the death, was Cagliostro's damnation. In judging 
him to-day, it is absolutely essential to bear in mind 
the unparalleled lack of scruple with which the Govern- 
ment and its enemies contested this trial. 


Implicated in her swindle by the Countess de 
Lamotte, to whose accusations his close intimacy with 
the Cardinal gave weight, Cagliostro was arrested 
at seven in the morning by Inspector Brugniere, 
accompanied by Commissary Chesnon and eight 

"He desired me, "says Cagliostro, who has described 
his arrest in detail, '* to deliver up my keys, and com- 
pelled me to open my bureau, which I did. There 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

were in it several of my remedies, amongst the rest six 
bottles of a precious cordial. Brugniere seized on 
whatever he took a fancy to, and the catchpoles he 
had brought with him followed his example. The 
only favour I asked was that I might be permitted to 
go in my own carriage to the place of my destination. 
This was refused. I then requested to be allowed the 
use of a cab ; this also was denied. Proud of making 
a show of his prey to the thronging multitude, Brugniere 
insisted on my walking part of the way; and although 
J was perfectly submissive and did not make the least 
shadow of resistance he laid hold of me by the collar. 
In this way, closely surrounded by four sbirri, I was 
dragged along the Boulevards as far as the Rue 
Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth, where a cab appearing, I 
was mercifully thrust into it and driven the rest of the 
way to the Bastille." 

The admiration amounting almost to veneration 
that Cagliostro inspired was shared only by his followers 
— of whom, however, he could count several thousands, 
it is said, in Paris. On the other hand, the curiosity 
which he had excited was general and anything but 
reverent. The exaggerated enthusiasm of his fol- 
lowers, the incredible stories related of him, and the 
extreme seriousness with which he took himself made 
him ridiculous. If he was the chief subject of conver- 
sation in all classes in Paris, it was as a subject of 
mirth. In the drama of the Necklace Affair it was to 
him that the public looked to supply the comic relief. 
He was by common consent the clown, the funny man 
of the play, so to speak. He had but to appear on 
the scene to raise a laugh, his slightest gesture pro- 
duced a roar, when he spoke he convulsed the house. 



But to Cagliostro his r61e was very far from comic. 
The consciousness of innocence is not necessarily a 
consolation in adversity. It poisons as often as it 
stimulates — according to the temperament. Cagliostro 
was utterly crushed by the blow that had fallen on 
him. The gloom of the Bastille, which the popular 
imagination haunted by old legends made deeper than 
it was, seemed to chill his very soul. He who had 
faced with '' a front of brass " all the previous dangers 
and humiliations of his agitated existence was for the 
first time cowed. Illuminlst, Egyptian Mason, Mystic 
Regenerator of Mankind — Revolutionist, in a word — 
he had no confidence in the justice of the power into 
whose hands he had fallen. He believed that he 
would be forgotten In his dungeon like so many 

The severity with which he was treated was 
calculated to justify his fears. 

** Were I left to choose," he says, ** between an 
ignominious death, and six months in the Bastille, I 
would say without hesitation, ' Lead me on to the 
scaffold.' " 

For five months he was not only in ignorance, but 
purposely misinformed, as to what was transpiring 
without his prison. During this time the beautiful 
Countess, less rigorously guarded, was confined near 
him without his knowledge. As soon as Brugnlere 
had carried off her husband, Chesnon and the police, 
who had remained behind after searching for incrim- 
inating documents which they did not find, attached 
seals to the house and carried her off too, ''half dead 
with fear," to the Bastille. In response to Cagliostro's 
repeated Inquiries as to whether she shared his 



The Diamond Necklace Affair 

captivity, as he feared, his jailers ''swore by their 
honour and God that she was not in the Bastille." 

This deception was even carried to the length of 
permitting him to write letters to her which never 
reached her, and to receive replies which she never 
wrote, " in which she assured him that she was taking 
steps to restore him to freedom." As the Countess 
Cagliostro could not write, a friend was supposed to 
write the letters for her. In the same way if he 
wanted clothes or linen he would dispatch a line to 
his wife, and an official would go to his house and 
fetch what he required, bringing back a letter from 
the Countess calculated to make him believe that they 
had been sent by her. 

At the same time the Cardinal was living in almost 
as much comfort as if he had been in his own palace. 
He occupied a spacious apartment, had three of his 
servants to wait on him, and saw as many people as 
he wished. The number of his visitors was so ereat 
that the drawbridge of the Bastille was kept lowered 
throughout the day. On one occasion he even " gave 
a dinner of twenty covers." 

As money — and Cagliostro had plenty of it — like 
rank, was able to purchase equal consideration in the 
Bastille, the contrast in the treatment of the two 
prisoners almost warrants the supposition that the 
jailers derived no little amusement from making sport 
of the sufferings of one who was alleged to be immune 
from those ills to which mere clay is prone. There 
are many people to whom a weeping Pierrot is as 
funny as a laughing one. 

It was not till his despondency, on discovering as 
he eventually did that his wife was a prisoner like 



himself, threatened to affect his reason that the severity 
of his confinement was relaxed. To prevent him from 
committing suicide, Thiroux de Crosne, the minister 
who had issued the warrant for his arrest, advised de 
Launay, the Governor of the Bastille, ''to choose a 
warder, Hkely to be sympathetic, to sleep in his cell." 
He was also permitted, like the other prisoners, to 
have exercise and to select a lawyer to defend him. 

The first use he made of this privilege was to 
petition the Parliament — ''to release his wife from a 
dungeon, where a man himself had occasion for all his 
strength, all his fortitude, and all his resignation to 
struggle against despair." 

The Bastille was too massive a cage for so delicate 
a bird. Implicated without the shadow of a reason in 
the Necklace Affair the Countess Cagliostro began to 
imagine herself ill. She pined for her fine house, her 
admirers, her diamonds, her black mare Djerid, and the 
companionship of the man to whom she owed all that 
spelt happiness in her inoffensive, doll-like existence. 
Moved to pity less by the petition of Cagliostro than 
by the pleading of her lawyer, Polverit, and the elo- 
quence of d'Epremenil, the most brilliant member of 
the Parliament, that body was finally persuaded to set 
her free without a trial after having been imprisoned 
seven months in the Bastille. 

The release of the Countess Cagliostro, to which 
the Court was bitterly opposed, was the first reverse 
of the Government in the duel to which it had so 
foolishly challenged public opinion. 

No sooner was the news known than friends and 
strangers alike came to congratulate her. For more 
than a week nearly three hundred people came daily 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

to inscribe their names in the visitors' book kept by 
the concierge. 

*' It is the perfection of good style," says one of the 
newswriters of the period, " to have made a call on the 
Countess Seraphina." 

'' Even the ' nymphs ' of the Palais Royal," says 
d'Almeras, " discreetly manifested their sympathy with 
the victim of arbitrary power on recognizing her as 
she walked one day in the gardens." 


Madame de Lamotte in the meantime, utterly 
undaunted by her imprisonment, was energetically 
preparing for the trial, which, in spite of all her efforts, 
was to end in her conviction. Her defence was a 
tissue of lies from beginning to end. She contradicted 
herself with brazen effrontery, accused Cagliostro, the 
Cardinal, and at last the Queen, of swindling Bohmer 
of the necklace. She did not hesitate to defame her- 
self by declaring that she had been the mistress of the 
Cardinal — which was as false as the rest of her evi- 
dence — and, as each lie became untenable, took refuge 
in another, even admitting that she was lying " to 
shelter an exalted personage." In only one thing was 
she consistent ; to the end she asserted her complete 
innocence. Her object was to confuse the issue and 
so wriggle herself free. 

In the first of her memoires pistificatifs, which 
were printed and sold in accordance with the legal 
custom of the day, she boldly charged Cagliostro with 
the robbery of the necklace. He was represented as 
an impostor to make him the more easily appear a 


swindler. To penetrate the mystery in which he had 
wrapped his origin she invented for him a low and 
shameful past, which the editor of the Courier de 
r Europe and the Inquisition-biographer afterwards 
merged into Giuseppe Balsamo's. She ridiculed his 
cures, and cited the Medical Faculty as witnesses of 
the deaths he had caused. She declared his dis- 
interestedness and his generosity to be a fraud, and 
accused him of practising in private the vices he 
denounced in public. Having stripped him of the 
last stitch of respectability she proceeded to expose 
the woman who passed as his wife, and whose liaisons 
with the Cardinal and others she declared he en- 
couraged. As for the wonders he was said to perform 
they were not even worthy of the name of tricks ; only 
fools were taken in by them. In fine, to Madame 
de Lamotte, the Grand Cophta was nothing but '*an 
arch empiric, a mean alchemist, a dreamer on the 
philosopher's stone, a false prophet, and a Jew who 
had taken to pieces the necklace which he had 
beguiled the Cardinal, over whom he had gained an 
incredible influence, to entrust to him, in order to 
swell a fortune unheard of before." 

This mdmoire — the first of many which the various 
persons implicated in the Affair rained upon the public 
— was to an impatient world the signal that the battle 
had begun. Excitement, already at fever heat, was 
intensified by the boldness, directness and violence of 
Madame de Lamotte's denunciation. It was felt that 
to justify himself Cagliostro would be obliged to clear 
up the mystery of his past. Never before had the 
"Grand Coffer," as he was called by a police official 
who unwittingly confounded the title and the fortune 



The Diamond Necklace Affair 

of the restorer of Egyptian Masonry, roused curiosity 
to so high a pitch. The recollection of his reputed 
prodigies gave to his expected self-revelation the 
character of an evocation, so to speak ; and the public, 
as ready to mock as it had formerly been to respect 
him, awaited his defence as a sort of magic seance at 
which all the tricks of necromancy were to be explained. 

Cagliostro employed to defend him Thilorier, one 
of the youngest and most promising advocates of the 
Parisian bar. Perhaps no cause c^lebre in history has 
ever called forth a more brilliant display of legal talent 
than the Diamond Necklace Affair. Of all the mdmoires 
or statements that were published by the advocates 
engaged in the case that of Thilorier created the 
greatest sensation. 

Warned by the tumult occasioned by the rush of 
purchasers who had besieged the house of Madame de 
Lamotte's advocate on the publication of her m'emoire, 
Thilorier took the precaution to secure eight soldiers 
of the watch to guard his door. Within a few hours 
tens of thousands of copies were scattered over Paris, 
and large editions were dispatched to the principal 
cities of Europe. It was regarded as a romance after 
the style of the Arabian Nights rather than the serious 
defence of a man whose liberty and very life were at 
stake. Everywhere people read it with a sort of 
amused bewilderment, and '* Thilorier himself," says 
Beugnot, *'who was a man of infinite wit, was the 
first to laugh at it." 

As a masterpiece of irony, clearness, dignity, and 
wit it was equalled only by Blondel's defence of the 
" Baroness d'Oliva." But its chief merit lay not so 
much in the piquancy of its literary style as in its 



portrayal of Cagliostro. Those who read this fantastic 
document felt that they not only saw the man but 
could hear him speak. Thilorier had drawn his hero 
to the life. 

Beginning with a high-flown and egotistical re- 
capitulation of his sufferings and virtues Cagliostro 
proceeded to refute " those imputations (as to his 
origin) which in any other circumstance he would 
have treated with contempt" by relating ''with 
candour " the history of his life. As a specimen of his 
grandiloquence it is worth quoting at some length. 

'' I cannot," he says, *' speak positively as to the 
place of my nativity, nor to the parents who gave me 
birth. All my inquiries have ended only in giving 
me some great notions, it is true, but altogether vague 
and uncertain, concerning my family. 

** I spent the years of my childhood in the city of 
Medina in Arabia. There I was brought up under 
the name of Acharat, which I preserved during my 
progress through Africa and Asia. I had my apart- 
ments in the palace of the Muphti Salahaym. It is 
needless to add that the Muphti is the chief of the 
Mahometan religion, and that his constant residence 
is at Medina. 

'' I recollect perfecdy that I had then four persons 
attached to my service : a governor, between fifty-five 
and sixty years of age, whose name was Althotas,^ 

1 The existence of Althotas is now generally conceded. A 
plausible attempt has been made to identify him with a certain 
Kolmer from whom Weishaupt received lessons in magic, and who 
was said to be a Jutland merchant who had lived some years in 
Memphis and afterwards travelled through Europe pretending to 
initiate adepts in the ancient Egyptian Mysteries. He was known 
to have visited Malta in the time of the Grand Master Pinto. 



The Diamond Necklace Affair 

and three servants, a white one who attended me as 
valet de chainbre and two blacks, one of whom was 
constantly about me night and day. 

<< My governor always told me that I had been 
left an orphan when only about three months old, 
that my parents were Christians and nobly born ; but 
he left me absolutely In the dark about their names 
and the place of my nativity. Some words, however, 
which he let fall by chance have induced me to suspect 
that I was born at Malta. Althotas, whose name I 
cannot speak without the tenderest emotion, treated 
me with great care and all the attention of a father. 
He thought to develop the talent I displayed for the 
sciences. I may truly say that he knew them all, 
from the most abstruse down to those of mere amuse- 
ment. My greatest aptitude was for the study of 
botany and chemistry. 

'' By him I was taught to worship God, to love and 
assist my neighbours, and to respect everywhere reli- 
gion and the laws. We both dressed like Mahometans 
and conformed outwardly to the worship of Islam ; 
but the true religion was imprinted in our hearts. 

'* The Muphti, who often visited me, always treated 
me with great goodness and seemed to entertain the 
highest regard for my governor. The latter instructed 
me in most of the Eastern languages. He would often 
converse with me on the pyramids of Egypt, on those 
vast subterraneous caves dug out by the ancient 
Egyptians, to be the repository of human knowledge 
and to shelter the precious trust from the injuries 
of time. 

"The desire of travelling and of beholding the 
wonders of which he spoke grew so strong upon me, 



that Medina and my youthful sports there lost all the 
allurements I had found in them before. At last, when 
I was in my twelfth year, Althotas informed me one 
day that we were going to commence our travels. A 
caravan was prepared and we set out, after having 
taken our leave of the Muphti, who was pleased to 
express his concern at our departure in the most 
obliging manner. 

" On our arrival at Mecca we alighted at the 
palace of the Cherif Here Althotas provided me with 
sumptuous apparel and presented me to the Cherif, 
who honoured me with the most endearing caresses. 
At sight of this prince my senses experienced a sudden 
emotion, which it is not in the power of words to 
express, and my eyes dropped the most delicious tears 
I have ever shed in my life. His, I perceived, he 
could hardly contain. 

" I remained at Mecca for the space of three years; 
not a day passed without my being admitted to the 
sovereign's presence, and every hour increased his 
attachment and added to my gratitude. I sometimes 
surprised his gaze riveted upon me, and turned to 
heaven with every expression of pity and commisera- 
tion. Thoughtful, I would go from him a prey to an 
ever-fruitless curiosity. I dared not question Althotas, 
who always rebuked me with great severity, as if it had 
been a crime in me to wish for some information con- 
cerning my parents and the place where I was born. 
I attempted in vain to get the secret from the negro 
who slept in my apartment. If I chanced to talk of 
my parents he would turn a deaf ear to my questions. 
But one night when I was more pressing than usual, 
he told me that if ever I should leave Mecca I was 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

threatened with the greatest misfortunes, and bid me, 
above all, beware of the city of Trebizond. 

" My inclination, however, got the better of his fore- 
bodings — I was tired of the uniformity of life I led at 
the Cherifs court. One day when I was alone the 
prince entered my apartment ; he strained me to his 
bosom with more than usual tenderness, bid me never 
cease to adore the Almighty, and added, bedewing my 
cheeks with his tears : ' Nature s unfortunate child, 
adieu ! ' 

** This was our last interview. The caravan waited 
only for me and I set off, leaving Mecca, never to 
re-enter it more. 

'' I directed my course first to Egypt, where I in- 
spected those celebrated pyramids which to the eye of 
the superficial observer only appear an enormous mass 
of marble and granite. I also got acquainted with the 
priests of the various temples, who had the com- 
placence to introduce me into such places as no 
ordinary traveller ever entered before. The next 
three years of my progress were spent in the principal 
kingdoms of Africa and Asia. Accompanied by 
Althotas, and the three attendants who continued in 
my service, I arrived in 1766 at the island of Rhodes, 
and there embarked on a French ship bound to 

'* Notwithstanding the general rule by which all 
vessels coming from the Levant are obliged to enter 
quarantine, I obtained on the second day leave to go 
ashore. Pinto, the Grand Master of the Knights of 
Malta, gave us apartments in his palace, and I perfectly 
recollect that mine were near the laboratory. 

'' The first thing the Grand Master was pleased to 



do, was to request the Chevalier d'Aquino, of the 
princely house of Caramanica, to bear me company 
and do me the honours of the island. It was here that 
I first assumed European dress and with it the name 
of Count Cagliostro ; nor was it a small matter of 
surprise to me to see Althotas appear in a clerical dress 
with the insignia of the Order of Malta. 

" I have every reason to believe that the Grand 
Master Pinto was acquainted with my real origin. He 
often spoke to me of the Cherif and mentioned the 
city of Trebizond, but never would consent to enter 
into further particulars on the subject. Meanwhile he 
treated me with the utmost distinction, and assured me 
of very rapid preferment if I would consent to take 
the cross. But my taste for travelling and the pre- 
dominant desire of practising medicine, induced me 
to decline an offer that was as generous as it was 

"It was in the island of Malta that I had the mis- 
fortune of losing my best friend and master, the wisest 
as well as the most learned of men, the venerable 
Althotas. Some minutes before he expired, pressing 
my hand, he said in a feeble voice, ' My son, keep for 
ever before your eyes the fear of God and the love of 
your fellow-creatures ; you will soon be convinced by 
experience of what you have been taught by me.' 

'' The spot where I had parted for ever from the 
friend who had been as a father to me, soon became; 
odious. I begged leave of the Grand Master to quit 
the island in order to travel over Europe ; he con- 
sented reluctantly, and the Chevalier d'Aquino was so 
obliging as to accompany me. Our first trip was to 
Sicily, from thence we went to the different islands 



The Diamond Necklace Affair 

of the Greek Archipelago, and returning, arrived at 
Naples, the birthplace of my companion. 

"The Chevalier, owing to his own private affairs, 
being obliged to undertake a private journey, I pro- 
ceeded alone to Rome, provided with a letter of credit 
on the banking house of Signor Bellone. In the 
capital of the Christian world I resolved upon keeping 
the strictest incognito. One morning, as I was shut 
up in my apartment, endeavouring to improve myself 
in the Italian language, vay valet de chambre introduced 
to my presence the secretary of Cardinal Orsini, who 
requested me to wait on his Eminence. I repaired at 
once to his palace and was received with the most 
flattering civility. The Cardinal often invited me to 
is table and procured me the acquaintance of several 
irdinals and Romap princes, amongst others, 
cardinals York and Ganganelli, who was afterwards 
Pope Clement XIV. Pope Rezzonico, who then 
filled the papal chair, having expressed a desire of 
seeing me, I had the honour of frequent private 
interviews with his Holiness. 

"I was then (1770) in my twenty-second year, 
when by chance I met a young lady of quality, 
Seraphina Feliciani, whose budding charms kindled 
in my bosom a flame which sixteen years of marriage 
have only served to strengthen. It is that unfortunate 
woman, whom neither her virtues, her innocence, nor 
her quality of stranger could save from the hardships 
of a captivity as cruel as it is unmerited." 

From this stage of his Odyssey, beyond citing as 

references certain persons by whom he was known 

in the various countries through which he passed, 

Cagliostro was very reticent as to his doings. From 

R 241 


Rome he arrived at Strasburg at a bound, whence he 
proceeded to his imprisonment in the Bastille with 
almost equal speed. His confession, rendering as it 
did his country and parentage more mysterious than 
ever, was received with derision. The credulous 
public, which had swallowed so easily all the ex- 
travagant stories concerning his supernatural powers 
refused to believe in this fantastic account of a 
mysterious childhood passed in Mecca and Medina, 
of caravans and pyramids, of tolerant Muphtis and 
benignant Grand Masters of Malta. It was not that 
the credulity of the eighteenth century had its limit 
but that calumny had mesmerized it, so to speak. 
Cagliostro's prestige had been submerged in the 
Necklace Affair ; the blight of the Bastille had fallen 
on the fame of the Grand Cophta and all his works. 

As the manner in which he stated his ignorance 
of his birth seemed to leave it to be inferred that he 
knew more than he wished to say, it was determined 
to give him a father. While his enemies agreed with 
the Countess de Lamotte that he was the son of a 
Neapolitan coachman, his friends declared him to be 
the offspring of the illicit loves of the Grand Master 
Pinto and a princess of Trebizond. To account for 
the meeting of this singular pair it was gravely asserted 
that a Maltese galley had captured a Turkish pleasure- 
boat with several young ladies of distinction on board, 
one of whom had exchanged hearts with Pinto, who, 
prevented by his vow of celibacy from making her his 
wife, had sent her back to her disconsolate parents, 
and that to frustrate their rage at the condition in 
which she had returned she had caused her child 
as soon as it was born to be spirited away to Arabia, 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

which accounted for the mysterious warning Acharat had 
received from the black slave '' to beware of Trebizond." 
Ridicule, however, soon disposed of this agreeable 
fable, and substituted instead the popular Balsamo 
legend in which just as much as it has pleased sub- 
sequent biographers to accept of Cagliostro s confession 
has been included. As to whether he spoke the truth 
wholly or partly or not at all, the present writer, 
confronted with his mysterious and fantastic character 
on the one hand and the assertions based on the 
prejudice of a century on the other, is unable to express 
any opinion. It seems, however, hard to believe that 
any man placed in so serious a situation as Cagliostro, 
and one which, moreover, had thoroughly shaken his 
courage, would have ventured to invent a story 
calculated to increase the suspicion it was his object 
to allay. To the present generation, accustomed 
by the press to infinitely greater improbabilities, 
Cagliostros adventures in Mecca and Medina have 
at least lost the air of incredibility. 


As may be surmised from the cursory account of 
the Diamond Necklace Affair already given, Cagliostro 
had no difficulty in proving his innocence. The mere 
comparison of the dates of the various incidents of the 
imbroglio with his own whereabouts at the time was 
sufficient to vindicate him. 

Throughout the whole of 1784, while the Cardinal 
was corresponding, as he supposed, with the Queen, 
meeting her in the park of Versailles, and purchasing 
the necklace, Cagliostro was in Bordeaux and Lyons. 
He did not arrive in Paris till January 30, 1785 ; 
R2 243 


it was on February i that the Cardinal gave the 
necklace to Madame de Lamotte to hand to the 
Queen. Accordingly, if Cagliostro had ever even 
seen the necklace, it could only have been between 
January 30 and February i when Bohmer had already 
obtained the Cardinal's guarantee in exchange for 
his precious jewel. This, however, he denied. *' It 
was not," he said, ''till a fortnight before the Cardinal 
was arrested that he informed me for the first time of 
the transaction about the necklace." 

But Cagliostro was not content with merely 
establishing his innocence. Madame de Lamotte's 
attack on his character had deeply wounded him in his 
most sensitive spot — his vanity — and pride would not 
suffer him to ignore her gibes. 

She had described him as ''an arch empiric, a 
mean alchemist, a dreamer on the philosopher's stone, 
a false prophet, and a profaner of the true religion." 

" Empiric," he said, refuting each epithet In turn, 
not without a certain dignity ; " this word I have often 
heard without knowing exactly what it meant. If it 
means one who without being a doctor has some 
knowledge of medicine and takes no fee, who attends 
to rich and poor alike and receives no money from 
either, then I confess I am an empiric. 

" Mean alchemist. Alchemist or not, the epithet 
mean is applicable only to those who beg or cringe, 
and it is well known whether Count Cagliostro ever 
asked a favour of any one. 

" Dreamer on the philosopher's stone. Whatever 
my opinion may be concerning the philosopher's stone, 
I have kept it to myself and never troubled the public 
with my dreams. 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

*' False prophet. Not always so. Had the 
Cardinal taken my advice he would not be in the 
position in which he now finds himself. I told him 
more than once that the Countess de Lamotte was a 
deceitful, intriguing woman, and to beware of her. 

*' Profaner of the true religion. This is more 
serious. I have respected religion at all times. My 
life and my outward conduct I freely submit to the 
inquiries of the law. As to what passes inwardly God 
alone has a right to call me to account." 

Cagliostro also took advantage of the occasion to 
deny the oft-repeated assertion that he was a Jew. 

*' My education," he said, *'as I have already 
declared, was that of a child born of Christian parents. 
I never was a Jew or a Mahometan. These two 
religions leave on their sectaries an outward and 
indelible mark. The truth, therefore, of what I here 
advance may be ascertained ; and rather than let any 
doubt remain on this affair, I am ready, if required, to 
yield to a verification more shameful for him who 
exacts it than for the person who submits to it."^ 

When he was confronted with Madame de Lamotte 
the scene in court was in the highest degree comic. 
The Countess, who had an unbounded contempt for 
the occult in general, covered the stances of Cagliostro 
with ridicule. She described one at which she had 
been present as a swindle, and reproached him with 
having exploited the credulity of the Cardinal by the 
most vulgar methods and for the most sordid motives. 
His Eminence, she asserted, was so bewitched that he 

^ Henry Swinburne, in his Memoirs of the Courts of Europe 
describing his meeting with Cagliostro, declares that there was 
"nothing Jewish" about him. 



consulted Cagliostro on "the pricking of a thumb," 
which made her ** regret she did not live in those 
blessed times when a charge of sorcery would have led 
him to the stake." 

But while she attempted to overwhelm the un- 
fortunate creature she had chosen to saddle with her 
own guilt, he dexterously turned the tables upon her. 
Assuming that her calumnies were inspired by the 
desire to clear herself rather than hatred, " he forgave 
her the tears of bitterness she had caused him to 

*' Do not imagine," he said, with the air of sublime 
bombast that was characteristic of him, *' that my 
moderation is a piece of mere affectation. From the 
bottom of the abyss into which you have plunged me 
I shall raise* my voice to implore in your behalf the 
clemency of the laws ; and if, after my innocence and 
that of my wife is acknowledged, the best |of kings 
should think an unfortunate stranger who had settled 
in France on the faith of his royal word, of the laws of 
hospitality, and of the common rights of nations is 
entitled to some indemnity, the only satisfaction I shall 
require will be that his Majesty may be pleased, at my 
request, to pardon and set at liberty the unfortunate 
Countess de Lamotte. However guilty she may be 
supposed, she is already sufficiently punished. Alas ! 
as I have been taught by sad experience, there is no 
crime ever so great but may be atoned for by six 
months in the Bastille!" 

Blague or conviction, at such a moment, it would 
be churlish to inquire. When one is fighting for life 
and liberty one readily avails oneself of any weapon 
that comes to hand. At least so thought Madame de 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

Lamotte. Failing further abuse of which she had been 
deprived by a riposte as unexpected as it was subtle, she 
picked up a candlestick. Hurled at the head of her 
adversary, it ''hit him in the stomach," to the amuse- 
ment of the court, the judges and Madame de Lamotte 
herself, who remarked to her counsel that " if he 
wished to render the scene still more amusing he had 
but to give her a broomstick." 

But neither abusive epithets nor candlesticks are 
arguments. Finding herself on the wrong road, the 
Countess made haste to leave it for another. It was 
iio longer Cagliostro who had stolen the necklace, but 
the Cardinal. 

At last, after more than nine months, the famous 
affair came to an end. On May 30, 1786, all the 
accused were summoned before the Parliament. When 
Cagliostro arrived, tricked out as usual like a mounte- 
bank in a coat of green silk embroidered with gold, 
and his hair falling in little tails on his shoulders, the 
whole assemblage burst into a laugh. But to him it 
was anything but an occasion for merriment ; he was 
serious to the point of solemnity. 

" Who are you ? " asked the president. 

** An illustrious traveller," was the reply. Then 
with imperturbable gravity he began in his loud, 
metallic voice, which Madame d'Oberkirch compared 
to a ''trumpet veiled in crape," to repeat the story of 
his life. 

At the mention of Trebizond the laughter re- 
doubled. This made him nervous, and either uncon- 
sciously from old habit, or in the hope of exciting an 
interest favourable to his cause, he related his adven- 
tures in a jargon composed, says Beugnot, " of all 



known languages as well as those which never existed." 
The gibberish he employed rendered him and his 
story still more fantastic. The laughter in the court 
was so loud that at times the voice of the speaker was 
drowned. Even the judges were convulsed. At the 
finish the president seemed to be on the point of 
complimenting '' Nature's unfortunate child." It was 
evident that Cagliostro had won the sympathy of those 
on whom his fate depended. Of the verdict of the 
mob there was no doubt. He took the cheers with 
which he was greeted on being driven back to the 
Bastille as a premonition of his acquittal. One writer 
says he displayed the joy he felt *' by throwing his hat 
into the air." 

On the following day (May 31) the Parliament 
pronounced the verdict. The Cardinal and Cagliostro 
were unanimously acquitted — the innocence of the 
latter had been acknowledged by all implicated in the 
trial, even in the end by the Countess de Lamotte 

The verdict was immensely popular. " I don't 
know what would have befallen the Parliament," said 

^ One, de Soudak, in an interesting review of M. Funck-Brentano's 
V Affaire du Collier^ in the Paris Temps^ April i, 1902, is the only 
modern writer who has ventured to question this verdict. The value 
of his opinion may be judged from an article by him in the Revue 
Bleue, 1899, ^^ which he attempts to identify a mysterious French- 
woman who died in the Crimea in 1825 with the Countess de 
Lamotte, who died in London 1791, after escaping from the 
Salpetriere, to which she had been condemned for life. Her sen- 
tence — the judges were unanimous in finding her guilty — also 
included being " whipped naked by the executioner, branded on the 
shoulders with the letter V. (voleuse), and the confiscation of all her 
property." The sentences of the others implicated in this affair need 
not concern us here. 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

Mirabeau, **had they pronounced otherwise." The 
fish-wives — the same who later were the Furies of the 
Revolution — forcibly embraced the judges and crowned 
them with flowers. In the street the name of the 
Cardinal was cheered to the echo. The ovation he 
received, however, was inspired less from any desire 
of the populace to acclaim him personally than to 
affront the Queen. 

It was also to the violent hatred of the Court .that 
Cagliostro owed the reception accorded him. His 
account of the scenes that took place on his deliverance 
from captivity would do credit to the lachrymose 
romances of the '' age of sensibility." 

'* I quitted the Bastille," he says, *' about half-past 
eleven in the evening. The night was dark, the 
quarter in which I resided but little frequented. What 
was my surprise, then, to hear myself acclaimed by 
eight or ten thousand persons. My door was forced 
open ; the courtyard, the staircase, the rooms were 
crowded with people. I was carried straight to the 
arms of my wife. At such a moment my heart could 
not contain all the feelings which strove for mastery 
in it. My knees gave way beneath me. I fell on the 
floor unconscious. With a shriek my wife sank into 
a swoon. Our friends pressed around us, uncertain 
whether the most beautiful moment of our life would 
not be the last. The anxiety spread from one 
to the other, the noise of the drums was no longer 
heard. A sad silence followed the delirious joy. I 
recovered. A torrent of tears streamed from my 
eyes, and I was able at last, without dying, to press to 
my heart ... I will say no more. Oh, you privileged 
beings to whom heaven has made the rare and fatal 



gift of an ardent soul and a sensitive heart, you who 
have experienced the deHghts of a first love, you 
alone will understand me, you alone will appreciate 
what after ten months of torture the first moment of 
bliss is like ! " 

Both Cagliostro and the Cardinal were obliged to 
show themselves at the windows of their respective 
houses before the crowds, which were cheering them 
and hissing the name of the Queen, could be induced 
to disperse. 

To Marie Antoinette, whose popularity was for 
ever blasted by the trial, the verdict of the Parliament 
was an insult — as it was meant to be — which intoler- 
able though it was, she would have been wise to have 
borne in silence. But it was her fate to the last to 
hold the honour of the woman higher than the majesty 
of the Queen. Having made the blunder of arresting 
the Cardinal and suffering the Parliament to try him, 
the King, advised by her, now committed the folly of 
showing his resentment of the verdict, which had after 
all, in the eye of the law, cleared his consort of com- 
plicity in the swindle. On June 2, the day after his 
release from the Bastille, Rohan was stripped of all 
his Court dignities and functions, and exiled to one of 
his abbeys in Auvergne. At the same time, Cagliostro 
was also ordered to leave Paris with his wife within a 
week, and France within three. 

The news no sooner became known than an 
immense concourse of people flocked to manifest their 
disapproval in front of the house of the Grand Cophta. 
But if he mistook their demonstration of hatred of the 
Queen as a sign of sympathy for himself, popularity 
under such conditions was too fraught with danger for 


The Diamond Necklace Affair 

him to take any pleasure in it. Terrified lest the 
Government should seize the opportunity of thrusting 
him back into the Bastille, he came out on the balcony 
of his house and entreated the mob to withdraw 
quietly, and then hurriedly left Paris. 

He went first to Passy, whither he was followed by 
a small band of his most faithful adherents, who during 
the few days he remained there mounted guard in the 
house in which he had taken shelter. A fortnight 
later he embarked from Boulogne with his wife for 
England. Upwards of five thousand people are said 
to have witnessed his departure, many of whom 
demanded and received his farewell blessing on their 
knees. France, on a page of whose history he had 
indelibly printed his name, never saw him more. 

There is an old and uncorroborated report that he 
who had always been so punctilious in the discharge 
of his liabilities left Paris without paying his rent. It 
appears to have arisen from the action that he after- 
wards brought against the magistrate Chesnon and 
de Launay, the governor of the Bastille, to recover 
property valued at 100,000 livres which he declared 
had been stolen from his house during his imprison- 
ment and for which he sought to hold them responsible. 
His failure to substantiate the charge gave it the 
appearance of having been trumped up. Whether it 
had any basis in fact it is impossible to say, but 
there can be no doubt from the manner in which the 
police turned his house upside down at the time he 
and his wife were arrested, as well as from the 
carelessness with which the official seals were affixed, 
that many valuable articles might easily have been 



spirited away in the confusion by unscrupulous servants 
and even by the police themselves. 

If Cagliostro, however, failed to pay his rent the 
proprietor of the house certainly took the matter very 
lightly. '* His house," says Lenotre, " remained 
closed till the Revolution. In 1805 the doors were 
opened for the first time in eighteen years when the 
owner sold the Grand Cophta's furniture by auction." 
Surely a very long time to wait to indemnify oneself 
for unpaid rent ? 

A curious interest attaches to this house, which is 
still standing, though long since shorn of its splendour 
in the days when the Cardinal and the aristocracy of 
the old regime came to assist at Cagliostro's magic 
seances. Yet in the meantime it has not been 
without a history. In 1855 the doors of the gateway 
were removed during some process of repair and 
replaced by doors which had formerly done service 
at the Temple where the Royal Family were 
incarcerated after the fall of the monarchy. They 
may be still seen with their heavy bolts and huge 

What a fatality — the doors of Marie Antoinette's 
prison closing Cagliostro's house! History has her 
irony as well as her romance. 




If ever a man had cause to be embittered and to 
nurse a grievance it was Cagliostro. He had been 
cast suddenly headlong, through no fault of his own, 
from the pinnacle of good fortune into the Bastille ; 
accused of another's crime ; arrested with the utmost 
brutality and treated with outrageous severity ; kept 
in uncertainty of the fate of his wife, who for six 
months, unknown to him, was confined within fifteen 
feet of him ; he had been an object of ridicule and 
mockery within, of calumny and detraction without his 
prison, of which the name alone was sufficient to 
reduce him to despair ; then — crowning injustice — 
after being acquitted on every count in a manner that 
could leave no doubt of his innocence, he had been 
arbitrarily banished within twenty-four hours of the 
recovery of his liberty. 

Under such circumstances resentment is perfectly 
natural and justifiable. To '' take it lying down," as 
the saying is, at all times a doubtful virtue, becomes 
frequently a downright folly. 

Had Cagliostro been silent in the present instance 
with the protecting arm of the sea between him and a 
corrupt and blundering despotism he would have been 
utterly undeserving of pity. In " getting even," 
however, to his credit be it said, he did not adopt the 



methods of the Rohanists, as all the enemies of the 
Government were called, and launch, like Calonne, 
Madame de Lamotte and so many others, libel after 
libel at the honour of the defenceless and unpopular 
Queen — the low and contemptible revenge of low and 
contemptible natures. On the contrary, he held the 
Baron de Breteuil, as the head of the Government, 
directly responsible for his sufferings and attacked him 
once and once only, in his famous Letter to the French 

This letter, written the day after his arrival in 
England, to a friend in Paris, was immediately 
published in pamphlet form, and even translated into 
several languages. Scattered broadcast over Paris 
and all France it created an immense sensation. 
Directed against Breteuil, whose unpopularity, already 
great, it increased, it assailed more or less openly the 
monarchical principle itself. Of all the pamphlets 
which from the Necklace Affair to the fall of the 
Bastille attacked the royal authority none are so 
dignified or so eloquent. The longing for freedom, 
which was latent in the bosom of every man and 
which the philosophers and the secret societies had 
been doing their best to fan into a flame, was revealed 
in every line. It was not unreasonably regarded as 
the confession of faith of an Illumine. The Inquisition- 
biographer declares that it was conceived in a spirit so 
calculated to excite a revolt that '' it was with difficulty 
a printer could be found in England to print it." 

1 The Lettre au peuple f ran fats was dated the 20th June 1786. 
As stated in the previous chapter, Breteuil was the deadly enemy of 
Cardinal de Rohan, and encouraged Marie Antoinette in demanding 
his arrest of the King. 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

Cagllostro himself admits that it was written with ''a 
freedom rather republican." ^ 

This letter gave great offence to the French 
Government and particularly to the Baron de Breteuil 
who dominated it, and whose conduct in the Necklace 
Affair sufficiently proves his unfitness for the post he 
filled. Under ordinary circumstances he would no 
doubt have ignored the attack upon himself. His 
pride, the pride of an aristocrat — he was the personifi- 
cation of reaction — would have scorned to notice the 
insult of one so far beneath him as Cagliostro. But 
the prestige of the Government and the majesty of the 
throne damaged by the unspeakable calumnies of the 
Necklace Affair had to be considered. Might not the 
sensation caused by the inflammatory Letter to the 
French People encourage the author to follow it up by 
other and still more seditious pamphlets .-* There was 
but one way to prevent this contingency — to kidnap him. 
For not only would it be impossible to persuade the 
English Government to give him up, but futile to attempt 
to purchase silence from one who had a grievance and 
made it his boast that he never took payment for the 
favours he conferred. 

Before the days of extradition, kidnapping was a 

^ Nearly all who have written on Cagliostro have erred in stating 
that the letter contained the " predictions that the Bastille would be 
destroyed, its site become a public promenade, and that a king 
would reign in France who would abolish lettres de cachet and 
convoke the States General " — all of which actually occurred three 
years later in 1789. The predictions are the invention of the 
Inquisition-biographer to whose short-comings, to put it mildly, 
attention has frequently been called. CagHostro merely says that if 
in the future he was permitted to return to France he would only do so 
''^provided the Bastille was destroyed and its site turned into a public 
promenade." A copy of this letter, now become very rare, is to be 
seen in the French National Archives. 



practice more or less common to all governments. 
Eighteenth century history, particularly that of France, 
is full of such instances.^ Breteuil was, therefore, 
merely following precedent when he ordered Bar- 
th^lemy, the French Ambassador in London, to inform 
Cagliostro that ''His Most Christian Majesty gave 
him permission to return to his dominions." 

This permission, was, accordingly, duly conveyed 
to Cagliostro, with the request that he would call at a 
certain hour on the following day at the Embassy when 
the ambassador would give him any further information 
on the subject he desired. It is exceedingly unlikely 
that Barthelemy intended to forcibly detain him when 
he called, but rather to gull him by false pretences — a 
not difficult proceeding in the case of one so notoriously 
vain as Cagliostro — into returning to France. Be this 
as it may, on calling on the ambassador at the 
appointed hour he prudently invited Lord George 
Gordon and one Bergeret de Frouville, an admirer 
who had followed him from France, to accompany him. 
This they not only did, but insisted in being present 
throughout the interview. 

Nettled by this veiled suggestion of treachery, 
Barthelemy received his visitor in a manner which 
served to confirm this impression. Producing a letter 

» Many attempts were made at this very time to kidnap the Count 
de Lamotte, who alone of all "wanted" in the Necklace Affair 
succeeded in escaping. On one occasion his murder was even 
attempted. The Countess de Lamotte herself, who escaped from 
the Salpetriere to London and published the vilest of all the calumnies 
against Marie Antoinette perished in jumping out of a window to 
elude capture. Numerous instances of the kidnapping of French 
subjects in England by the French police are cited by Brissot in his 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

from the Baron de Breteuil he informed Cagliostro 
that he was authorized to give him permission to return 
to France. But CagHostro, having taken no steps to 
obtain this permission was naturally suspicious of the 
source from which it emanated. 

'■How is it possible," he asked, "that a simple 
letter of the Baron de Breteuil should be able to revoke 
the lettre de cachet signed by the King himself, by 
which I was exiled ? I tell you, sir, I can recognize 
neither M. de Breteuil nor his orders." 

He then begged Barthelemy to let him have the 
letter or a copy of it. The ambassador, however, for 
some inexplicable reason saw fit to refuse the request, 
whereupon the interview ended. 

There was certainly nothing unreasonable in the 

"Without having some proof of my permission to 
return to France," says Cagliostro in the letter he 
subsequently wrote to the Public Advertiser, "how 
could I have answered the Governor of Boulogne or 
Calais when I was asked by what authority I returned? 
I should at once have been made a prisoner." 

The next day Lord George Gordon publicly con- 
stituted himself the champion of Cagliostro in a letter 
to the Public Advertiser, in which he made an out- 
rageous and utterly unjustifiable attack on Marie 
Antoinette. No better illustration could be given of 
the spirit in which the established authorities sought 
to crush the revolutionary tendency of the times, 
which had begun to manifest itself, than the price 
that Lord George was made to pay for his libel. 
Exasperated by the insults and calumnies that were 
now continually directed against his unpopular consort, 
s 257 


Louis XVI ordered his ambassador in London to 
bring an action against Gordon. 

Under ordinary circumstances Gordon, relying on 
the resentment that England cherished against France 
for the part she had taken in the American War of 
Independence, would have had nothing to fear. But 
he was a rabid demagogue with a bad record. A few 
years before he had accepted the presidency of the 
Protestant Association formed to secure the repeal of 
the act by which the Catholic disabilities imposed in 
the time of William and Mary had been removed. It 
was this association which had fomented the famous 
Gordon riots, as they were called, when London had 
been on the point of being pillaged. Gordon, it is 
true, had disclaimed all responsibility for the conduct 
of the mob, which, however, acknowledged him as its 
leader, and though tried for high treason had been 
acquitted. But this experience had not sobered his 
fanaticism. He was the soul of sedition in his own 
country, and one of the most notorious and violent 
revolutionists in Europe at this period. The British 
Government was only too glad of the opportunity 
afforded it by the French to reduce him to silence. 

Gordon, accordingly, fled to Holland, but learning 
that the Dutch Government was preparing to send 
him back, he returned secretly to England. Soon 
afterwards he was betrayed by a Jew, whose religion 
he had adopted and with whom he had taken shelter. 
The action of the French Government having in the 
meantime been decided against him, he was sentenced 
to five years imprisonment and to pay a heavy fine. 
This was the end of Lord George Gordon. For at 
the expiration of his term of confinement, being unable 




^^Hlokd George gokbon. |^H 


(From an old print) 1 7'^'/«£-^ Mge 258 

Cagliostro Returns to London 

to pay the fine, he remained a prisoner, and eventually 
died in Newgate. 

Compromised by the dangerous manner in which 
Gordon had taken up his cause, Cagliostro hastened 
to disclaim all connection with him. In his letter to 
the Public Advertiser, in which he described his inter- 
view with Barth^lemy, he referred to the ambassador, 
the Baron de Breteuil, and the King of France in 
terms of the greatest respect. Breteuil, however, did 
not forget him. A month later Barthdemy called in 
person upon him with a warrant signed by the King's 
own hand, permitting him to return to France. 

Cagliostro received it with profuse thanks, but 
he did not dare to avail himself of the privilege it 
accorded him. 

''It is but natural," he said, "for a man who has 
been nine months in the Bastille without cause, and 
on his discharge receives for damages an order of 
exile, to startle at shadows and to perceive a snare in 
everything that surrounds him." 

So suspicious did he become that when a friend, 
who was showing him the sights of London, suggested 
'*an excursion down the Thames as far as Greenwich," 
he at once scented danger. 

" I did not know who to trust," he says, " and I 
remembered the history of a certain Marquis de 
Pelleport and a certain Dame Drogard." ^ 

Needless to say, he was careful not to write any 
more letters or pamphlets "with a freedom rather 
republican." Nevertheless he was a marked man, 
and Fate was getting ready her net to catch him. 

1 Both of whom had recently been decoyed to France, where 
they had at once been imprisoned. 
S2 259 


Had Cagliostro come to England before his fame 
had been tarnished by the Necklace Affair, he would 
in all probability have been lionized by the best society 
as he was In France. But the unsavoury notoriety he 
had acquired, the hundred and one reports that were 
circulated to his discredit and believed, for people 
always listen more readily to the evil that Is said of 
one than to the good, closed the doors of the aris- 
tocracy to him. Instead of floating on the crest of 
the wave he was caught In the under-current. With 
few exceptions the acquaintances he made were more 
calculated to lower him still further In the esteem of 
respectable society, than to clear him of the suspicion 
that attached to him. The mere association of his 
name with Lord George Gordon's would alone have 
excited mistrust. But the injury he received from 
the questionable manner in which Gordon sought to 
befriend him was trifling compared with the interest 
that the Editor of the Courier de I' Europe took in him. 

Theveneau de Morande, to give this individual a 

name, was one of the greatest blackguards of his time 

— the last quarter of the eighteenth century produced 

many who equalled him in infamy but none who 

surpassed him. The son of a lawyer at Arnay-le-Duc 

in Burgundy, where he was born in 1741, Theveneau 

de Morande *' was," as M. Paul Robiquet truly says 

in his brilliant study of him, ''from the day of his 

birth to the day of his death utterly without scruple." ^ 

1 Theveneau de Morande: Etude sur le XVIII^' Sihle par 
Paul Robiquet. By his contemporaries the name of Morande was 
never mentioned without an abusive epithet. Brissot, meeting him 
for the first time in a restaurant in London, " shuddered instinctively 
at his approach." 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

When a boy he was arrested for theft in a house of 
ill-fame. Compelled to enlist or be sent to prison he 
chose the former alternative, but did not serve long. 
In response to his entreaties his father obtained his 
discharge on condition that he would reform. Instead, 
however, of returning home as he promised, Morande 
went to Paris, where his dissolute life led him to the 
prison of For-l'Eveque. Hereupon his father solicited 
the favour of a lettre de cachet by means of which he 
was confined in a convent at Armentieres. 

On being released two years later at the age of 
four-and-twenty, having been imprudent enough to 
lampoon one of the principal members of the Govern- 
ment, Morande fled the country. After tramping 
about Belgium he arrived in London in a condition 
of absolute want. But he was not long without means 
of subsistence. The ease with which he extorted 
money by threatening to inform the police of the 
equivocal lives of such acquaintances as chance threw 
in his way suggested the system of blackmail which 
he afterwards developed into a fine art. 

Gifted with a talent for writing he ventured to 
attack notabilities. From fear of his mordant, cynical 
pen many were induced to purchase his silence. In 
Le Gazetier Cuirass^, ou Anecdotes scandaleuses sur la 
cour de France, all who had refused to purchase 
exemption had been represented by him in the worst 
possible light. For this work, which Brissot describes 
as "one of those infamous productions the very name 
of which one blushes to mention," he is said to have 
received i,ooo guineas. 

Emboldened by the fright he inspired he redoubled 
his attacks, but they did not always meet with the 



same success. He thought to extort a ransom from 
Voltaire, but the aged philosopher of Ferney had 
lived through too much to be frightened for so little. 
He published Morande's letter, accompanied with 
commentaries of the sort he knew so well how to 
make effective. The Comte de Lauraguais replied 
even more effectively than Voltaire. Not only did 
he obstinately refuse to pay the tribute demanded of 
him, but, being in London at the time, gave the black- 
mailer a horsewhipping, and compelled him to publish 
an abject apology in the press into the bargain. 

Morande, however, was not discouraged, and pre- 
pared to reap the most fruitful of all his harvests. 
For the object he had in view Madame du Barry was 
a gold mine. The famous favourite of Louis XV was 
notoriously sensitive on the subject of her reputation, 
and dreaded nothing so much as a libel. Morande, 
accordingly, wrote to inform her that he had in 
preparation a work in four volumes, to be entitled the 
Mdmoires cfune femme publique, in which she would 
figure as the heroine, unless she preferred to pay a 
handsome sum for its suppression. To assist her to 
come to the latter decision a scenario of the work was 
sent her. *' Le Gazetier Cuirass^" says Bachaumont, 
who saw it, *'was rose-water in comparison with this 
new chef-cCoeuvre'' 

Alarmed and enraged, the poor creature communi- 
cated her fears and anger to the King, who applied 
to George HI for Morande's extradition. The attitude 
of the British Government was characteristic of the 
political morality of the age. The laws and customs 
of England rendering the extradition of a foreign 
refugee out of the question, the French Court was 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

informed that failing an action for libel — which under 
the circumstances was clearly impossible — the only 
alternative was to kidnap the libellist. The British 
Government even offered its assistance, providing that 
Morande's ''removal was done with the greatest secrecy 
and in such a manner as not to wound the national 

The French Government accordingly sent a 
brigade of police to London, but Morande was on the 
alert. Warned from Paris of his danger, he exposed 
the contemplated attack upon him in the Press, giving 
himself out as ''a political exile and an avenger of 
public morality " — poses, needless to say, which are 
always applauded in England. Public sympathy was 
thus excited in his favour to such a pitch that the 
French police were obliged to return to France empty- 
handed, after having narrowly escaped being thrown 
into the Thames by an infuriated crowd. 

Morande, enchanted at having got the better ot 
the French Government, redoubled his threats. He 
wrote again to Madame du Barry to inform her that 
6,000 copies of his scandalous work were already 
printed and ready for circulation. Louis XV, who 
had no more fear of a libel than Voltaire, would have 
let him do his worst, but to please his mistress he 
decided to come to terms. As this had now become 
a delicate matter, Beaumarchais was entrusted with 
the negotiation on account of his superior cunning. 
The celebrated author who had everything to gain by 
earning the gratitude of Madame du Barry went to 
London under the name of Ronac, and in a very short 
time succeeded in gaining the confidence of the libellist, 
whose silence was purchased for the sum of 32,000 



livres in cash and a pension of 4,000 llvres, to be paid 
to Morande s wife in the event of her surviving him. 

It was about this time that Morande, without 
altogether abandoning his career of blackmail, adopted 
the more profitable one of spy. Instead of attacking 
authority, he now offered to serve it. Having been 
taught his value by experience, the French Govern- 
ment gladly accepted the offer. He began by 
" watching " the French colony in London, which 
was composed chiefly of escaped criminals and 
political refugees, and ended as Editor of the Courier 
de r Europe. 

This paper had been started by a refugee, Serres 
de Latour, with ^the object of instructing the French 
public in the internal affairs of England, particularly 
as regards her foreign policy. The money to finance 
the scheme had been supplied by a Scotchman by 
name of Swinton, who was granted every facility by 
the Comte de Vergennes, the French Minister for 
Foreign Affairs, that would assist the enterprise. 

Thus protected, the Courier de l Europe was a 
success from the start. In a short time it had 5,000 
subscribers — an enormous number for those days — 
and a revenue of 25,000 livres. Brissot, the leader 
of the Girondins in the Revolution, who was con- 
nected with it for a time as a young man, estimated 
its readers at over a million. "There was not," he 
says, *'a corner of Europe in which it was not read." 

Such a widely circulated journal naturally had 
great influence. ' During the American War of 
Independence its ever-increasing success alarmed the 
English Cabinet, which, instead of suppressing it, 
foolishly endeavoured to circumvent the laws respect- 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

ing the liberty of the Press by placing an embargo on 
the bales of the paper destined for export. But 
Swinton parried this blow by causing it to be printed 
simultaneously at Boulogne. "Whereupon," says 
Brissot, '' the English Government resigned itself to 
the inevitable and suffered the Courier de r Europe to 
continue to injure England under the protection of 
English law itself." Throughout the war which ended 
so humiliatingly for England, as Vergennes expressed 
it, '' the gazette of Latour was worth a hundred spies " 
to France. 

Under the editorship of Morande, who succeeded 
Serres de Latour, the journal, as may be imagined, 
more than maintained its reputation. "In it," says 
Brissot, "he tore to pieces. the most estimable people, 
spied on all the French who lived in or visited London, 
and manufactured, or caused to be manufactured, 
articles to ruin any one he feared." 

Such was the man, and such the weapon, that the 
Court of Versailles, which had frequently utilized both 
before, now employed to destroy Cagliostro.^ 

Morande, who had now become the chief of the 
brigade of police spies, which when he himself had 
been their quarry he had so loudly denounced in the 
English press, opened fire, in obedience to his 
orders, on September i, 1786. For three months he 
bombarded Cagliostro unceasingly in a long series of 
articles that befouled, calumniated, and ridiculed him 
with a devilish cleverness. Like the Countess de 

1 Morande had one redeeming quality. Royalist to the core, 
he served the French Court loyally till the fall of the rnonarchy. 
Imprisoned during the Revolution, he escaped the guillotine by an 
accident, and having returned to his native town, retired into a 
respectable obscurity. 



Lamotte, he did not hesitate to deny his own state- 
ments when others could be made more serviceable. 
Thus, after affirming ** Nature's unfortunate child " to 
be the son of a coachman of the Neapolitan Duke of 
Castropignani, he declared him to be the valet of the 
alchemist Gracci, known as the Cosmopolite, from 
whom he had stolen all his secrets, which he had 
afterwards exploited in Spain, Italy, and Russia under 
various titles : sometimes a count, at others a marquis, 
here a Spanish colonel, there a Prussian — but always 
and everywhere an impostor. 

In this way rambling from article to article, from 
calumny to calumny, without knowing where he was 
going, so to speak, Morande finally arrived at Giuseppe 
Balsamo — as described at the beginning of the book. 
The discovery of Balsamo was a veritable trouvaille. 
It enabled Morande to tack on to the variegated 
career of the Sicilian scoundrel all that he had hitherto 
affirmed of Cagliostro's past life without appearing 
to contradict himself. Once on Balsamo's track, he 
never lost scent of him. He ferreted out or invented 
all the stories concerning the Balsamos : their marriage, 
the manner in which they had lived, their forgeries, 
blackmail, poverty, licentiousness, imprisonment — 
everything, in fact, that could damage Cagliostro and 
his wife. He found people, moreover, to swear to the 
truth of all he said, or rather he asserted it, and on the 
strength of their accusations caused Cagliostro to be 
sued for debts incurred in the name of Balsamo years 
before. He collected all the hostile reports of the 
enemies the Grand Cophta had made in his travels 
through Europe and afterwards in the Necklace Affair, 
and re-edited them with the precision of an historian 


THP:VENEAU DE MORANDE \To face page ^tb 

Cagliostro Returns to London 

and the malice of a personal enemy. Then, after 
having done him all the injury he could and given the 
French Government full value for its money, Morande 
with brazen effrontery proposed to Cagliostro that he 
should purchase the silence of the Courier \ 

But Cagliostro was not the man — to his credit, be 
it said — to ignore the feigned indignation of the 
libellist who had been hired to ruin him. Aided by 
Thilorier,^ his brilliant counsel in the Necklace Affair, 
who happened to be in England, the wonder-worker 
published a Letter to the English People, in which he 
flung in the face of the blackmailer all the atrocious acts 
of his own past. Morande, however, aware that any 
effort on his part to clear himself of these accusations 
would be useless, sought to distract attention from the 
subject by daring Cagliostro to disprove the charges 
made in the Courier. At the same time he thought to 
stab him to silence by covering with ridicule a state- 
ment which he asserted Cagliostro had made to the 
effect that ''the lions and tigers in the forests of 
Medina were poisoned by the Arabians by devouring 
hogs fattened on arsenic for the purpose." 

The laughter which this reply aroused evidently 
stung Cagliostro to the quick, and to refute Morande's 
implied accusation of charlatanism, he wrote the 
following letter to the Public Advertiser, in which, 
after some preliminary sarcasms, he said — 

'*0f all the fine stories that you have invented 
about me, the best is undoubtedly that of the pig 
fattened on arsenic which poisoned the lions, the tigers, 

1 Whether Thilorier had come to England at the request of 
Cagliostro or not is uncertain, but it is now known that he wrote 
Cagliostro's replies to Morande's charges. 



and the leopards in the forest of Medina. I am now 
going, sir jester, to have a joke at your expense. In 
physics and chemistry, arguments avail little, persiflage 
nothing ; it is experiment alone that counts. Permit 
me, then, to propose to you a little experiment which 
will divert the public either at your expense or 
mine. I invite you to lunch with me on November 9 
(1786). You shall supply the wine and all the 
accessories, I on the other hand will provide but a 
single dish — a little pig fattened according to my plan. 
Two hours before the lunch you shall see it alive, and 
healthy, and I will not come near it till it is served on 
the table. You shall cut it in four parts, and, having; 
chosen the portion that you prefer, you shall give me 
what you think proper. The next day one of four 
things will occur : either we shall both be dead, or we 
shall neither of us be dead ; or I shall be dead and 
you will not ; or you will be dead and I shall not. Of 
these four chances I give you three, and I will bet you 
5,000 guineas that the day after the lunch you are 
dead and that I am alive and well." 

Whether or no Morande's perception had beeni 
blunted by over-taxing his imagination in the attempt to 
discredit his enemy, he interpreted Cagliostro's sarcasm 
literally. Afraid to accept the challenge, but tempted 
by the 5,000 guineas, he suggested ''that the test 
should take place in public, and that some other car- 
nivorous animal should be substituted for the pig 
fattened on arsenic." But this suggestion, which 
revealed his cowardice by reducing the culinary duel 
to a farce, gave his adversary an opportunity he was 
quick to seize. 

** You refuse to come yourself to the lunch to 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

which I invite you," wrote Cagliostro in 3.] letter to the 
Public Advertiser which recalls one of Voltaire's, 
" and suggest as a substitute some other carnivorous 
animal ? But that was not my proposal. Such a 
guest would only very imperfectly represent you. 
Where would you find a carnivorous animal which 
amongst its own species is what you are amongst 
men ? It is not your representative, but yourself, with 
whom I wish to treat. The custom of combat by 
champions has long gone out of fashion, and even if I 
allowed you to restore it, honour would forbid me to 
contend with the champion you offer. A champion 
should not have to be dragged into the arena, but 
enter it willingly; and however little you may know 
of animals, you must be aware that you cannot find 
one flesh-eating or grass-eating that would be your 

To this letter the unscrupulous agent of the French 
Court dared not reply. The man he had been hired to 
defame with his venomous pen had the laugh on his 
side. The public, moreover, were beginning to detect 
the mercenary hireling in the detractor, and as the 
gallery had ceased to be amused Morande, to avoid 
losing what reputation he possessed, suddenly ceased 
his attacks, apologizing to his readers for *' having 
entertained them so long with so futile a subject." 

Nevertheless, though the victory remained with 
Cagliostro, he had received a mortal wound. The 
poisoned pigs of the Arabians were not more destructive 
than the poisoned pen of Theveneau de Morande. The 
persistency of his attacks, the ingenuity of his detrac- 
tion, were more effective than the most irrefutable 
proof. His articles, in spite of their too evident 



hostility, their contradictions, their statements either 
unverifiable or based on the testimony of persons 
whose reputations alone made it worthless, created a 
general feeling that the man whom they denounced 
was an impostor. The importance of the paper in 
which they appeared, quoted by other papers, all of 
Europe, served to confirm this impression. Thus the 
world, whose conclusions are formed by instinct rather 
than reason, forgetting that it had ridiculed as improb- 
able Cagliostro's own story of his life, accepted the 
amazing and still more improbable past that Morande 
*' unmasked " without reservation. Nor did the Court 
of Versailles and its friends, nor all the forces of 
law and order which, threatened everywhere, made 
common cause with the threatened French monarchy, 
fail to circulate and confirm by every means in their 
power the statements of Morande. As if the stigma 
which the Countess de Lamotte and the Parliament, 
for two totally different reasons, had cast upon the 
reputation of Marie Antoinette was to be obliterated 
by blighting Cagliostro's ! 

The deeper an impression, the more ineradicable 
it becomes. Within a quarter of a century the man 
whom Morande had called a cheat, an impostor, and a 
scoundrel had become on the page of history on which 
his memory is imprisoned the *' Arch-quack of the 
eighteenth century," '* a liar of the first magnitude," 
**an unparalleled impostor." 

But in the curious mass of coincidence and circum- 
stantial evidence on which the popular conception of 
Cagliostro has been based, ingenious and plausible 
though it is, there is one little fact which history has 
overlooked and which Morande was careful to ignore. 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

In turning Cagliostro into Giuseppe Balsamo, the 
fantastic idealist-enthusiast into the vagabond forger, 
" the charlatan," as Queen's friend Besenval describes 
him, *'who never took a sou from a soul, but lived 
honourably and paid scrupulously what he owed," into 
the vulgar souteneur, Morande, by no trick of the 
imagination, with all the cunning calumnies of the 
French Court, and the so-called " confession " wrung 
from its victim by the Inquisition, to aid him, could 
not succeed in making the two rese7nble one another. 
Yet it is on the word of this journalist-bravo, hired by 
the French Ministry to defame an innocent man whose 
unanimous acquittal of a crime in which he had been 
unjustly implicated was believed by Marie Antoinette 
to be tantamount to her own conviction, that Cagliostro 
has been branded as one of the most contemptible 
blackguards in history. 

Surely it is time to challenge an opinion so fraudu- 
lently supported and so arbitrarily expressed ? The 
age of calumny is past. The frenzied hatreds and 
passions that, like monstrous maggots, so to speak, 
infested the dying carcass of the old rdgime are extinct, 
or at least have lost their force. We can understand 
the emotions they once stirred so powerfully without 
feeling them. In taking the sting from the old hate 
Time has given new scales to justice. We no longer 
weigh reputations by the effects of detraction, but by 
its cause. 

The evidence on which Morande's diabolically 
ingenious theories are based has already been examined 
in the early chapters of this book. It requires no effort 
of the imagination to surmise what the effect would be 
on a jury to-day if their decision depended upon the 



evidence of a witness who, as Brissot says, *' regarded 
calumny as a trade, and moral assassination as a sport." 


The campaign against Cagliostro was by no means 
confined to defamation. Morande assailed not only 
his character, but his person. 

On the first shot fired by the Courier de V Europe, 
as if it were the signal for a preconcerted attack, a 
swarm of blackmailers, decoys, and spurious creditors 
descended upon the unfortunate Grand Cophta. 
Warned by the noise that the daring, but unsuccessful, 
attempts of the secret agents of the French police to 
kidnap the Count de Lamotte had created, Morande 
adopted methods less likely to scandalize the British 
public in his efforts to trepan Cagliostro. While 
apparently confining himself to the congenial task of 
'* unmasking " his victim daily in the columns of his 
widely-read journal, he was a party to, if he did not 
actually organize, the series of persecutions that em- 
bittered the existence of the now broken and discredited 

If, as he declared, in his efforts to convince the 
public that Cagliostro was Giuseppe Balsamo, the 
perjured Aylett and the restaurant-keeper Pergolezzi 
were prepared to corroborate his statement, then given 
his notorious character, unconcealed motive, and the 
money with which he was supplied by the French 
Government, the presumption that these questionable 
witnesses were bought is at least well founded. In the 
Letter to the English People in which Cagliostro, with 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

the aid of Thilorier, sought to defend himself from the 
charges of the Courier de /^Europe, he states, as "a fact 
well known in London," that Morande went about 
purse in hand, purchasing the information, witnesses, 
and accomplices he required. 

He offered one hundred guineas to O'Reilly, to 
whose good offices Cagliostro owed his release from 
the King's Bench jail in 1777, to swear that he had 
left England without paying his debts. But though 
O'Reilly refused to be bought, Swinton, Morande's 
intimate friend and the proprietor of the Courier de 
r Europe, proceeding on different lines, succeeded in 
making mischief between O'Reilly and Cagliostro, by 
which the latter was deprived of a valuable friend 
when he had most need of him. 

According to Brissot, who knew him thoroughly, 
and whose testimony is above dispute, Swinton was 
every bit as unprincipled as his editor. A Scotchman 
by birth, he had lived the greater part of his life, 
married, and made his fortune in France. On settling 
in London he had drifted naturally into the French 
colony, in which, by reason of his sympathies, connec- 
tions and interests he had acquired great influence, 
which he turned to account on every possible occasion. 
One of his many profitable enterprises was a *'home'* 
for young Frenchmen employed in London. " He also 
ran a druggist's shop," says Brissot, "in the name of 
one of his clerks, and a restaurant in the name of 
another." ^ And when Cagliostro arrived in London 
with a letter of introduction to him, Swinton, who was 
as full of schemes as he was devoid of principle, 
thought to run him, too, for his own profit. The 

1 Perhaps Pergolezzi ? 
T 273 


wonder-worker with his elixirs, his balsams, and his 
magical phenomena was, if properly handled, a mine 
of gold. 

Taking advantage of Cagliostro's ignorance of the 
language and customs of the country in which he had 
sought refuge, Swinton, who was assiduous in his 
attentions, rented him a house in Sloane Street, for 
which he desired a tenant, induced him to pay the cost 
of repairing it, and provided him with the furniture he 
needed at double its value. To prevent any one else 
from interfering with the agreeable task of plucking so 
fat a bird, and at the same time the better to conceal 
his duplicity, Swinton endeavoured to preclude all 
approach to his prey. It was to this end that he made 
trouble between Cagliostro and O'Reilly. Having 
succeeded thus far in his design he redoubled his 
attentions, and urged Cagliostro to give a public 
exhibition of his healing powers, as he had done at 
Strasburg. But warned by previous experience of the 
danger of exciting afresh the hostility of the doctors, 
Cagliostro firmly refused. Swinton then proposed to 
become his apothecary, and to push the sale of the 
Grand Cophta's various medicaments, of which his 
druggist's shop should have the monopoly, in the 
Courier de ^Europe. 

To this, however, Cagliostro also objected, pre- 
ferring, apparently, not to disclose the secret of their j 
preparation — if not to share with the apothecary, as 
Morande afterwards declared, the exorbitant profit to 
be derived from their sale. Perceiving that he was 
not to be persuaded by fair means, Swinton inju- 
diciously tried to put on the screw. But his threats, 
far from accomplishing their purpose, only served to 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

betray his designs, and so disgusted Cagliostro that 
he ceased to have any further communication with 
him. Swinton, however, was not to be got rid of in 
any such fashion. Living next door to his enemy, his 
house became the rendezvous of the various baiHffs 
and decoys hired by Morande to seize or waylay his 
unfortunate adversary. 

Among numerous schemes of Swinton and Morande 
to capture Cagliostro were two attempts to obtain his 
arrest by inducing persons to take out writs against 
him for imaginary debts — a proceeding which the 
custom of merely swearing to a debt to procure a writ 
rendered easy. In this way Priddle, who had behaved 
so scurvily in Cagliostro's arbitration suit with Miss 
Fry in 1777, was induced to take out a writ for sixty 
pounds, due, as he pretended, for legal business trans- 
acted nine years before. Warned, however, that the 
bailiffs were hiding in Swinton's house to serve the writ 
the moment he should appear, Cagliostro was able to 
defeat their intention by procuring bail before they 
could accomplish their purpose. In the end it was 
Priddle who went to Newgate. But instead of the 
former demand for sixty pounds, Cagliostro, by means 
of one of the various legal subterfuges in the practice 
of which the eighteenth century lawyer excelled, was 
obliged to pay one hundred and eighty pounds and 

Immediately after this dearly-bought victory, the 
baited victim of ministerial tyranny and corruption was 
similarly attacked from another quarter in a manner 
which proves how great was the exasperation of his 
enemies. Sacchi, the blackmailer, who had published 
a libellous pamphlet against Cagliostro — quoted by 

T2 275 


Madame de Lamotte at her trial, when it was generally 
regarded as worthless, and its suppression ordered by 
the Parliament of Paris — appeared in London and 
obtained a writ for one hundred and fifty pounds, 
which, he claimed, Cagliostro owed him for the week 
passed in his service in Strasburg in 1781. The 
impudence of this claim on examination was, of course, 
sufficient to disprove it ; but Morande, who had 
brought Sacchi to England and assisted him to procure 
the writ, all but succeeded in having Cagliostro igno- 
miniously dragged to Newgate on the strength of it. 
The proximity, however, of Swinton's house — in which 
the bailiffs had secreted themselves pending an oppor- 
tunity of seizing their prey, as on the former occasion — 
helped to betray their presence, and once again 
Cagliostro managed to forestall them by giving the 
necessary bail in due time. 

Such an existence was enough to give the most 
fearless nature cause for alarm, and the Bastille had 
effectually damped the courage of the Grand Cophta. 
'' Startling at shadows " the pertinacity of his enemies 
left him not a moment's peace. The fate of Lord 
George Gordon was ever in his thoughts. If the 
French Government was powerful enough to effect 
the imprisonment of an Englishman who had offended 
it in his own country, what chance had he of escaping ? 

His Masonic experiences in England, moreover, 
were not of a nature to encourage the hopes he had 
entertained of making converts to the sect he had 
founded. At first it seemed as if Egyptian Masonry 
might prosper on English soil. Assisted by a number 
of adepts from Paris and Lyons, whose zeal had 
induced them to follow their master to London, 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

Cagliostro had sought to found a lodge for the ob- 
servance of the Egyptian Rite. To this end he had 
held stances which many people of distinction attended. 
These were so successful that to encourage some of 
the more promising of his clientele he ''transmitted 
to them, as a mark of exceptional favour, the power 
to obtain manifestations in his absence." Unfortu- 
nately, instead of the angels they expected to evoke, 
devils appeared.^ The effect produced upon these 
inexperienced occultists was deplorable ; combined 
with the attacks of the Courier de r Europe it effectu- 
ally killed Egyptian Masonry in England. 

The Freemasons, who had welcomed him to their 
lodges with open arms, as the victim of a degenerate 
and despicable despotism, influenced by the scathing 
attacks of Morande, who was himself a Mason, now 
gave him the cold shoulder. At a convivial gathering 
at the Lodge of Antiquity which he attended about 
this time, instead of the sympathy he expected he 
was so ridiculed by one " Brother Mash, an optician," 
who gave a burlesque imitation of the Grand Cophta 
of Egyptian Masonry as a quack-doctor vending a 
spurious balsam to cure every malady, that the victim 
of his ridicule was compelled to withdraw. 

The mortification which this incident occasioned 

^ Cagliostro's pretended transmission of his supernatural powers, 
as previously stated, was nothing more than the discovery that the 
so-called " psychic " faculty, instead of being confined to a few excep- 
tional people, as was till then generally believed, existed in a more 
or less developed state in everybody. Before his time, and in fact till 
many years after, the " psychic " faculty was so little understood that 
the above phenomenon, familiar enough to spirit-rappers and plan- 
chette-writers of the present day, was believed to be the work of the 
powers of darkness whose manifestations inspired terror, of which 
familiarity has apparently robbed them now-a-days. 



Cagllostro was further intensified by the wide notoriety 
that it was given by Gillray in a caricature entitled 
" A Masonic Anecdote," to which the following lines 
were attached in English and French : — 


" Born, God knows where, supported, God knows how, 
From whom descended — difficult to know; 
Lord Crop adopts him as a bosom friend. 
And madly dares his character defend. 
This self-dubb'd Count some few years since became 
A Brother Mason in a borrow'd name; 
For names like Semple numerous he bears, 
And Proteus-like in fifty forms appears. 
* Behold in me (he says) Dame Nature's child 
Of Soul benevolent and Manners mild. 
In me the guiltless Acharat behold. 
Who knows the mystery of making Gold ; 
A feeling heart I boast, a conscience pure, 
I boast a Balsam every ill to cure. 
My Pills and Powders all disease remove. 
Renew your vigour and your health improve.' 
This cunning part the arch-impostor acts 
And thus the weak and credulous attracts. 
But now his history is render'd clear 
The arrant hypocrite and knave appear; 
First as Balsamo he to paint essay'd. 
But only daubing he renounc'd the trade ; 
Then as a Mountebank abroad he stroll'd; 
And many a name on Death's black list enroU'd. 
Three times he visited the British shore, 
And ev'ry time a different name he bore ; 
The brave Alsatians he with ease cajol'd 
By boasting of Egyptian forms of old. 
The self-same trick he practis'd at Bourdeaux, 
At Strasburg, Lyons and at Paris too. H 

But fate for Brother Mash reserv'd the task 
To strip the vile impostor of his mask. 
May all true Masons his plain tale attend ! 
And Satire's laugh to fraud shall put an end." 

To recover the prestige he had lost in the Masonic 
world Cagliostro seems for a moment to have sought 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

affiliation with the Swedenborgians, whose extravagant 
form of spiritualism was not unlike that of the Egyptian 
Rite. It was undoubtedly with this object in view 
that he inserted a notice in the Morning Herald in 
which he invited **all true Masons in the name of 
Jehovah to assemble at O'Reilly s Hotel to form a plan 
for the reconstruction of the New Temple of Jeru- 
salem." The Swedenborgians, however, failed to 
respond to the invitation. 

Smitten thus hip and thigh, England became 
impossible to Cagliostro ; and having made the 
necessary preparations he set out with great secrecy 
and alone for Switzerland some time in May 1787. 
But Morande even now did not cease persecuting him. 
Not content with boasting that '' he had succeeded in 
hunting his dear Don Joseph out of England," he 
circulated the report that "" the charlatan had gone off 
with the diamonds of his wife, who in revenge now 
admitted that her husband was indeed Giuseppe 
Balsamo and that all the Courier de I Europe had 
written about him was true." 

This report is another instance of the vindictive 
rumours on which so much of the prejudice against 
Cagliostro is based. It was devoid of the least particle 
of truth, and was deliberately fabricated and circulated 
solely for the purpose of injuring the man it slandered. 

As a matter of fact, in travelling without his wife for 
the first and only time in his career, Cagliostro did so 
from necessity. Beset with spies who, as he was in- 
formed, suspecting his intention of leaving England 
had planned to capture him en route} he had need of 

^ One of his followers, de Vismes, was induced to come to 
London from Paris on purpose to act as a decoy. 



observing the greatest caution in his movements. The 
Countess Cagliostro, far from being left in " great 
distress," as Morande asserted, had ample means at 
her disposal as well as valuable friends in the Royal 
Academician de Loutherbourg and his wife, with whom 
she lived till her own departure for Switzerland. 

Philip James de Loutherbourg was a painter of 
considerable note in his day. An Alsatian by birth, 
he had studied art under Vanloo in Paris, but meeting 
with little success in France, migrated to England, 
where fortune proved more propitious. His battle- 
pieces and landscapes in the Salvator Rosa style were 
very popular with the great public of his day. En- 
gaged by Garrick to paint scenery for Drury Lane 
Theatre, the innovations that he introduced completely 
revolutionized the mounting of the stage. He was 
also the originator of the panorama. His " Eido- 
phusicon," as he called it, in which, by the aid of 
mechanical contrivances, painted scenes acquired the 
appearance of reality, when exhibited in London excited 
the unbounded admiration of Gainsborough. 

Of a decidedly visionary temperament, de Louther- 
bourg " went in " for alchemy, till his wife, who was 
equally visionary and more spiritually inclined, smashed 
his crucible in a fit of religious exaltation. Converted 
in this violent fashion to a less material though no less 
absurd form of supernaturalism, the popular Royal 
Academician, whose pictures at least had nothing 
mystical about them, became assiduous in attending 
Baptist chapels, revivalist meetings, and Sweden- 
borgian services. After associating with the en- 
thusiast Brothers, who called himself '*the nephew 
of the Almighty " and was more fitted for a lunatic 


'■■ ;°if$;,.>^j; ' <»^. ji :.^y 


Cagliostro Returns to London 

asylum than the prison to which his antics led him, 
de Loutherbourg turned faith-healer. At the same 
time his wife also acquired the power to heal. 

Beside the cures the de Loutherbourgs are re- 
ported to have performed those of Cagliostro pale into 
insignificance. Even Mrs. Eddy, of Christian science 
fame, with her ''absent treatment," has only imitated 
them. Unlike her, the de Loutherbourgs healed free 
of charge. 

Sometimes the sufferer they treated would be in 
another room or even in another house. On one 
occasion, if "A Lover of the Lamb of God " is to be 
believed, they cured "a boy suffering from scrofula 
who had been discharged from St. Bart s as incurable 
in five days without seeing him." 

Naturally their fame soon spread, and as they pro- 
fessed to be able to cure all diseases, people suffering 
from all sorts of infirmities flocked to consult them. 
Horace Walpole declares that de Loutherbourg had 
as many as three thousand patients. Certain days in 
each week were appointed for their treatment, which 
were regularly advertised. On one occasion all the 
three thousand, apparently owing to some error in the 
announcement, are said to have surrounded the house 
at once, so that it was with the greatest difficulty one 
could either enter or leave it. 

" A Lover of the Lamb of God " was so impressed 
by the miracles the de Loutherbourgs performed as to 
call upon the Archbishop of Canterbury " to compile a 
form of prayer to be used in all churches and chapels 
that nothing may impede their inestimable gift having 
free course." Their practice, however, was brought 
to an abrupt close by some indignant patients whom 



they had failed to cure, and who, accompanied by a 
mob, attacked the house and very nearly lynched the 

De Loutherbourg's mystical tendencies, however, 
do not appear to have injured him in the least in the 
opinion of the general public. On resuming his career 
as painter he found the same encouragement as before, 
and was highly respected by all who knew him. As 
contrasted with the enmity of so notorious a black- 
guard as Morande, the friendship of so estimable a man 
as de Loutherbourg speaks volumes for Cagliostro's 
own probity. 

The charity of the de Loutherbourgs, on which 
Morande, Swinton and Company declared that the 
Countess Cagliostro lived after her husband's escape 
from their clutches, consisted entirely in defeating 
their attempts to take advantage of her defenceless 
state. Receiving information that a writ was to be 
issued by which Cagliostro's furniture was to be seized, 
de Loutherbourg advised the Countess to sell it and 
take up her abode in his house until her husband sent 
for her, when to ensure her travelling without molest- 
ation he and Mrs. de Loutherbourg accompanied her 
to Switzerland. 

The first thing that she did on arriving at Bienne 
was to go before a magistrate and make an affidavit to 
the effect that her reported corroboration of the charges 
made against her husband in the Courier de [Europe 
was a lie. The fact that the Countess Cagliostro did 
this with the knowledge of the de Loutherbourgs is 
sufficient to prove the truth of her words. 


nature's unfortunate child 

On leaving England in 1786 Cagliostro was 
doomed to resume the vagabond existence of his 
earlier years ; with the difference, however, that 
whereas previously his star, though often obscured by 
clouds, was constantly rising, it was now steadily on 
the decline. 

At first its descent was so imperceptible as to 
appear to have been checked. After the manner in 
which he had been harried in London the tranquillity 
and admiration he found in Bale must have been 
balm to his tortured spirit. At Bale he had followers 
who were still loyal, particularly the rich banker 
Sarazin, on whom he had '' conferred the blessing of a 
belated paternity," and whose devotion to him, as 
Cagliostro declared in his extravagant way at his trial 
in Paris, was so great that '' he would give him the 
whole of his fortune were he to ask for it." 

It was at Bale, moreover, that the dying flame of 
Egyptian Masonry flickered up for the last before expir- 
ing altogether. Under the auspices of Sarazin a lodge 
was founded on which the Grand Cophta conferred 
the high-sounding dignity of the '' Mother Lodge of 
the Helvetic States." The funds, however, did not 
run to a ''temple" as at Lyons, but the room in which 
the faithful met was arranged to resemble as closely as 



possible the interior of that edifice. Both sexes were 
admitted to this lodge, and Cagliostro again trans- 
mitted his powers to certain of the members who, 
having been selected for the favour apparently with 
more care on this occasion than in London, performed 
with the greatest success. 

It was, however, in the little town of Bienne that 
Cagliostro seems to have resided chiefly while in 
Switzerland. According to rumours that reached 
London and Paris " he lived there for several months 
on a pension allowed him by Sarazin." Why he left 
this quiet retreat, or when, is unknown. He is next 
heard of vaguely at Aix-les- Bains, where the Countess 
is said to have taken the cure. Rumour follows him 
thence to Turin, '* but," says the Inquisition-biographer, 
" he had no sooner set foot in the town than he was 
ordered to leave it instantly." 

Henceforth fortune definitely deserted him. Against 
the poison in which Morande had dipped his barbed 
pen there was no antidote. It destroyed him by slow 
degrees, drying up the springs of his fabulous fortune, 
exhausting the resources of his fertile brain, withering 
his confidence, his ambition, and his heart. But 
though the game was played, he still struggled desper- 
ately to recover all he had lost, till he went to Rome, 
into which he crawled like a beast wounded to the 
death that has just enough strength to reach its lair. 

The luxury and flattery so dear to him were gone 
for ever. His journeys from place to place were no 
longer triumphal processions but flights. Dishonoured, 
discredited, disillusioned, the once superb High Priest 
of the Egyptian Mysteries, the ** divine Cagliostro," 
accustomed to be courted by the greatest personages, 


^Nature's Unfortunate Child' 

acclaimed by the crowd, and worshipped by his ad- 
herents, was now shadowed by the police, shunned 
wherever he was recognized, hunted from pillar to 
post. All towns in which he was likely to be known 
were carefully avoided ; into such as seemed to offer 
a chance of concealment he crept stealthily. He dared 
not show his face anywhere, it was as if the whole 
world, so to speak, had been turned by some accident 
of his magic into the Trebizond that the black slave 
of the Arabian days had warned him to beware of. 

If this existence was terrible to him, it was equally 
so to his delicate wife. The poverty and hardship 
through which Lorenza Balsamo passed so carelessly, 
left their mark on the Countess Seraphina. Under the 
pinch of want her charms and her jewels began alike 
to vanish. At Vicenza necessity " obliged her to pawn 
a diamond of some value." 

Rumour, following in their track, mumbles vaguely 
of petty impostures, small sums gulled from the credu- 
lous, and of shady devices to make two ends meet, 
but gives no details, makes no definite charge. If the 
rumour be true, it is not surprising that one so bank- 
rupt in reputation, in purse, and in friends as Cagliostro 
had now become, should have lost his self-respect. 
In the pursuit of his ideal, having formed the habit of 
regarding the means as justifying the end, what wonder 
when the end had changed to hunger that any means 
of satisfying it should have appeared to him justifiable? 

At Rovoredo, an obscure litde town in the Austrian 
Tyrol, where he found a temporary refuge, he did not 
scruple to make capital out of his knowledge of both 
magic and medicine. Here he managed to interest 
several persons in the mysteries of Egyptian Masonry 



to the extent of being invited to give an exhibition of 
his powers. He even succeeded in founding a lodge 
at Rovoredo, which he affiHated with the lodge at 
Lyons, the members of which still believed in him. 
At the same time, followers being few and subscrip- 
tions small, he resumed the practice of medicine, 
making a moderate charge for his attendance and his 

But in spite of all his precautions to avoid exciting 
ill-will or curiosity, it was not long before his identity 
was discovered. Some one, perhaps the author of 
a stinging satire^ which from its biblical style was 
known as the ''Gospel according to St. Cagliostro," 
notified the authorities. The " quack " was obliged 
to discontinue the exercise of his medical knowledge 
in any shape or form ; and the matter coming to the 
ears of the Emperor Joseph II, that sovereign signed 
an order expelling him from the town altogether. 

Cagliostro then went to Trent, where there 
reigned a prince-bishop as devoted to alchemy and 
magic as Rohan himself. This little potentate was 
no sooner informed of the arrival of the pariah than 
instead of following the example of his Imperial 
suzerain, he invited him to the episcopal palace. It 
was an invitation, needless to say, that was gladly 
accepted ; for a moment, protected by his new 
friend, it seemed as if he might succeed in mending 
his broken fortunes. But while the prince-bishop 
was willing enough to turn his guest's occult know- 
ledge to account he was not inclined to countenance 
Egyptian or any other form of Freemasonry. 

^ Liber memorialis de Caleostro dum esset Roberetti contains an 
account of Cagliostro's doings in Rovoredo. 


^ Nature's Unfortunate Child ' 

Accordingly to allay suspicion Cagliostro foreswore 
his faith in Masonic observances, sought a confessor 
to whom he declared that he repented of his 
connection with Freemasonry, and manifested a desire 
to be received back into the bosom of the Church. 

The prince-bishop, in his turn, pretended to believe 
in this feigned repentance, boasted of the convert he 
had made, and, assisted by the reformed wonder- 
worker, resumed his quest of the philosopher's 
stone and any other secret his crucible might be 
induced to divulge. The little world of Trent, 
however, which had palpitated like the rest of Europe 
over the revelations of the Diamond Necklace Affair 
and Morande, was profoundly scandalized. Certain 
persons felt it their duty to inform the Emperor how 
the prince-bishop was behaving. The free-thinking, 
liberty-affecting Joseph II could be arbitrary enough 
when he chose. Severely reprimanding his episcopal 
vassal for harbouring so infamous an impostor, he 
commanded him to banish the wretch instandy from 
his estates. 

Judging from the itinerary of his wanderings in 
northern Italy and the Tyrol, Cagliostro seems to 
have intended to go to Germany, hoping, no doubt, to 
find an asylum, like Saint-Germain, Weishaupt, Knigge 
and many other, at the Court of some Protestant 
prince, most of whom were Rosicrucians, alchemists. 
Freemasons, and revolutionary enthusiasts. But 
whatever hopes he may have had in this direction 
were effectually dashed by the hostility of the 
Emperor. Expelled from Trent in such a fashion he 
dared not enter Germany. 

To turn back was equally perilous. In Italy, 



where the Church, brutalized out of all semblance 
to Christianity by centuries of undisputed authority, 
regarded the least attempt to investigate the secrets 
of nature as a reflection on its own ignorance, a 
certain and terrible doom awaited any one who 
excited its suspicions. But to Cagliostro, with fate's 
blood-hounds on his track, an Imperial dungeon 
seemed a more present danger than an Inquisition 
torture-chamber. It was no "Count Front of Brass," 
as Carlyle jeeringly stigmatized him, that was brought 
to bay at Trent. His courage was completely broken. 
Spent in this struggle against destiny, he was no 
longer able to devise new schemes and contrivances 
as of old. Retracing his steps with a sort of defiant 
despair, as if driven by some irresistible force to his 
doom, he took the road to Rome, where he and his 
wife arrived at the end of May 1789. 

According to the Inquisition-biographer it was to 
please his wife, who desired to be reconciled to her 
parents, that Cagliostro went to Rome. If, indeed, 
the parents of the Countess Seraphina, or Lorenza 
Balsamo, as you will, were still living or even resident 
in Rome, they were apparently unwilling or afraid 
to recognize the relationship, for nothing further is 
heard of them. It is much more likely that Cagliostro 
chose Rome on account of its size, as being the one 
place in Italy which offered him the most likely chance 
of escaping observation. In so large a city his poverty 
was itself a safe-guard. 

Cagliostro's first efforts to drive the wolf from the 
door were confined to the surreptitious practice of 
medicine. On such patients as he managed to 
procure he enjoined the strictest silence. But in 


'Nature's Unfortunate Child' 

losing his confidence in himself he had lost the art 
of healing. The Inquisition-biographer cites several 
instances of his failure to effect the cures he attempted 
to perform. After ''undertaking to cure a foreic^n 
lady of an ulcer in her leg by applying a plaster that 
very nearly brought on gangrene," he had the prudence 
to abandon altogether a practice that exposed him to 
so much danger. 

The risk he ran in exploiting his psychic gifts in 
Rome was even greater than the peril connected with 
the illicit practice of medicine. On leaving Trent 
he seems to have resolved to renounce Egyptian 
Masonry altogether, and he wrote to such of his 
followers as he still corresponded with, imploring 
them to avoid all reference to it in their letters 
to him. But the occult was now his only resource, 
and whether he wished it or not, he was obliged to 
turn to it for a living. 

In spite of all the efforts of the Church to stamp 
out Freemasonry in Italy it still beat a feeble wing. 
For two years the Lodge of the Vrais Amis had existed 
in secret in the heart of Rome itself. This lodge, 
which had received its patent from the Grand Orient 
in Paris and was in correspondence with all the prin- 
cipal lodges in France, was really a revolutionary club 
of foreign origin. It had been founded by " five 
Frenchmen, one Pole, and one American," who, to 
judge from the character of the ceremonies they 
observed at the initiation of a member, were Illumines. 
As a Freemason and an Illuming himself Cagliostro 
must have known of the existence of this lodge 
before coming to Rome. 

His fear of the Inquisition was so great that before 
u 289 


making himself known to the Vrals Amis he contem- 
plated leaving Rome altogether. The fall of the Bas- 
tille, which occurred about this time, having inaugurated 
the Revolution in France, he petitioned the States 
General for permission to return there, as " one who 
had taken so great an interest in liberty." At the same 
time not being in the position to take advantage of the 
privilege were it granted, he wrote urgent appeals for 
money to former friends in Paris. But in the rapidity 
with which the Revolution marched, Cagliostro had 
ceased to have the least importance, even as a missile 
to hurl at the hated Queen. Whether the petition or 
the letters ever reached their destination is unknown ; 
in neither case, however, did he obtain a reply.^ 

With all hope of retreat cut off and starvation staring 
him in the face, the wretched man timorously proceeded 
to seek the acquaintance of the Vrals Amis. The 
difficulties and dangers they encountered in obtaining 
recruits won for the discredited Grand Cophta a cordial 
welcome. Notwithstanding, he refused to seek admis- 
sion to their lodge, and contented himself with begging 
a meal or a small loan of the members with whom he 

Even Morande, who had himself experienced the 
horrors of abject poverty in his early struggle for 
existence in London, must have pitied the victim of 
his remorseless persecution had he seen him now. In 
his miserable lodging near the Piazza Farnese every- 
thing — save such furniture as was the property of the 
landlord — on which he could raise the least money had 

^ The Moniteur^ however, was subsequently informed by its 
Roman correspondent that he had received bills of exchange from 
both London and Paris. 


' Nature's Unfortunate Child ' 

been pawned. Not a stone of the diamonds that had 
so dazzled, or scandaHzed, as Madame de Lamotte 
maliciously declared, the high-born ladies of Paris and 
Strasburg, was left his once lovely, and stilled loved, 
Countess. Faded, pinched with hunger, she still clung 
to this man, himself now broken and aged by so 
many calumnies, persecutions and misfortunes, whose 
enemies had falsely accused him of treating her brut- 
ally, as she had clung to him for fifteen years — the 
first and the last of his countless admirers and followers. 

To one of his vain and grandiose temperament the 
abasement of his soul must have been terrible as he 
who had been as good as master of the splendid 
palace of Saverne cowered day after day in that bare 
attic with hunger and terror, like sullen lacqueys in con- 
stant attendance, and thought of all the past — of the 
fascinating Cardinal whose friendship had brought him 
to this pass and who had now forsaken him; of Sarazin, 
the rich banker *' who would give me the whole of his 
fortune were I to ask for it," dead now, or as good as 
dead ; of de Loutherbourg, the Good Samaritan ; of the 
reverent disciples to whom he had been ihe/^ere adord, 
the *' master"; of the Croesus' fortune which he had 
lavished so ostentatiously and generously ; of the 
gaudeamus with which the sympathetic crowds had 
greeted him on his release from the Bastille ; of the 
miracles of which he had lost the trick ; and last but 
not least of his fantastic scheme for the regeneration of 
mankind which he had promulgated with such enthus- 
iasm and success. 

One day at a dinner to which some of his Masonic 
acquaintances invited him when the memory of the 
past was perhaps more vivid, more insistent than usual, 
u 2 291 


influenced by the festal atmosphere of the occasion, 
Cagliostro was persuaded to discourse on Egyptian 
Masonry. But alas ! instead of exciting interest as in 
former times his eloquence was without effect. The 
ice, however, was broken, and necessity becoming 
stronger than his fears he endeavoured to procure 
recruits in the hope of maintaining himself and his 
wife on their subscriptions. 

According to the Inquisition-biographer two men 
whom he approached resolved to have a practical joke 
at his expense. They manifested a lively desire to be 
instructed in the Egyptian Rite, and Cagliostro, de- 
ceived into the belief that he had to do with men of 
means, *'by a false diamond, which he took to be real, 
on the hand of one," decided to gratify them. After 
having explained to them the aims and character of 
Egyptian Masonry he proceeded to initiate them in 
conformity with the usual ridiculous rites, passing them, 
as Grand Master, by the wave of a sword through 
the three Masonic grades of apprentice, companion 
and master at once. But to his mingled terror and 
mortification when it came to the payment of the fifty 
crowns that he demanded as their subscription fees, 
they excused themselves in a manner which showed 
him only too plainly he was their dupe. 

Alarmed lest they intended to inform against him, 
he thought to avoid the consequences of detection by 
confessing to a priest as he had done at Trent. It 
was the last effort of a beast at bay. In accordance 
with the monstrous principle that the means justify 
the end confessors have been known on occasion to 
betray the secrets confided to them in the confessional. 
In this instance, however, there is no proof that the 


'Nature's Unfortunate Child' 

Church profaned the sanctity of the sacrament to 
which it attaches so much importance. It is much 
more likely that the Inquisition had discovered Cag- 
liostro's presence in Rome, and that the men by whom 
he had been duped were spies of the Holy Office. 
On the evening of December 27, 1789, he and his 
wife were arrested by the Papal police and imprisoned 
in the Castle of St. Angelo. 

Cagliostro, it is said, had been warned of his 
danger anonymously by some unknown well-wisher. 
But where could he flee without money ? The con- 
solations of the confessional, moreover, seemed to 
have allayed his fears to such an extent that he did 
not even take the precaution to destroy any letters or 
documents that might compromise him. 

On the same day that Cagliostro was seized the 
sbirri of the Inquisition made a raid on the Lodge 
of the Vrais Amis. But the members, who had also 
received warning, better advised or better supplied 
with funds than the ex-Grand Cophta, had taken time 
by the forelock and fled. 


The manner in which the Papal government tried 
those accused of heresy and sedition is too notorious 
to require explanation. In all countries, in all languages, 
the very name of the Inquisition has become a by- word 
for religious tyranny of the cruelest and most despic- 
able description. If ever this terrible stigma was 
justified it was in the eighteenth century, particularly 
in the Church's struggle with the Revolution for 
which clerical intolerance was more direcdy responsible 



than any other factor of inhumanity and stupidity that 
led to the overthrow of the ancien regime. 

In the case of CagHostro, who was one of the last 
to be tried by the ApostoHc Court, the Inquisition 
lived up to its reputation. Threatened and execrated 
everywhere by the invincible spirit of freedom which 
the fall of the Bastille had released, the Jesuits, who 
controlled the machinery of the Papal government,^ 
strove without scruple to crush the enemies which 
their arrogant intrigues had created for the Church. 
To them Freemasonry was a comprehensive name for 
everything and everybody opposed to them and their 
pretensions. In a certain sense they were right, and 
in France at any rate where the lodges and secret 
societies no longer took the trouble to conceal their 
aims there was no mistaking the revolutionary character 
of the Freemasons. So great, therefore, was the fear 
and hatred that Freemasonry inspired in the Church 
that in seizing Cagliostro the Inquisition never dreamt 
of charging him with any other crime. Beside it his 
occult practices or the crimes of which, on the assump- 
tion that he was Giuseppe Balsamo he might have 
been condemned, paled into insignificance. 

The fact that the Inquisition-biographer seeks to 
excuse the Apostolic Court for its failure to charge 
him with these offences, on the ground that *'all who 
could testify against him were dead " proves how 
slight was the importance his judges attached to them. 
Had they desired to bring him to the gallows for the 
forgeries of Balsamo, the judges of the Inquisition 

^ The abolition of their Order was but temporary. It had been 
forced upon the Pope by sovereigns whose power in an atheistical 
age had increased as his declined. The Jesuits continued to exist in 
secret, and to inspire and control the Papacy. 


'Nature's Unfortunate Child' 

would have found the necessary witnesses. As a 
matter of fact they never so much as attempted to 
identify him with Balsamo, as they could easily have 
done by bringing some of the relations of the latter 
from Palermo.^ 

The news that Cagliostro had been arrested as a 
revolutionary agent caused great excitement. As the 
Papal government took care to foster the belief that 
he was connected with all the events that were 
occurring in France, the unfortunate Grand Cophta 
of Egyptian Masonry suddenly acquired a political 
^importance he had never possessed. " Arrested," 
says the Moniteur, "he evoked as much interest in 
Rome as he had formerly done in Paris." In all 
classes of society he became once more the chief topic 
of conversation. 

It was reported that before his arrest he had written 
a circular letter to his followers, of whom he was 
popularly supposed to have many in Rome itself, 
calling upon them to succour him in case he should 
fall into the hands of the Inquisition, and if necessary 
to set fire to the Castle of St. Angelo or any other 
prison in which he might be confined. Even from 
his dungeon, •' which was the same as the one that the 
alchemist Borri had died in a century earlier," he was 
said to have found the means to communicate with 
his accomplices without. According to the Moniteur 
'' a letter from him to a priest had been intercepted 
which had led to the detection of a conspiracy to over- 
throw the Papal monarchy." 

1 To justify the attitude they adopted the Inquisition-biographer 
was accordingly obliged to blacken the character of Cagliostro by 
attributing to him the infamous reputation of Balsamo as a means 
of emphasizing the odious lives of Freemasons in general. ^ 



Whether the report was true or not, the Papal 
government, which had probably circulated it, made it 
the excuse to arrest numerous persons it suspected. 
These mysterious arrests caused a general feeling of 
uneasiness, which was increased by rumours of more 
to follow. Fearing, or affecting to fear, a rising the 
Papal government doubled the guards at the Vatican, 
closed the Arsenal, which was usually open to the 
public, and surrounded St. Angelo with troops. 
There was even talk of exiling all the French in 

It required no gift of prophecy to foretell the fate 
of the unhappy creature who was the cause of all this 
excitement. From the first it was recognized that he 
had not the ghost of a chance. Two papal bulls 
decreed that Freemasonry was a crime punishable by 
death. To convict him, moreover, the Inquisition had 
no lack of proof. Laubardemont, Cardinal Richelieu's 
famous police-spy, deemed a single compromising line 
sufficient to hang a man. In Cagliostro's case, thanks to 
his singular lack of prudence in not destroying his 
papers, the documents seized on his arrest were a 
formidable dossier. Nevertheless, before dispatching 
their luckless victim the '* Holy " Inquisition played 
with him, like a cat with a mouse, for over a year. 

As usual at all Inquisition trials the forms of 
justice were observed. Permission was granted 
Cagliostro to choose two lawyers to defend him. 
This privilege, however, was a mockery, for his choice 
was in reality limited to certain officials especially 
appointed by the Apostolic Court to take charge of 
such cases as his. They were not free to acquit ; at 
most their defence could only be a plea for mercy. In 


'Nature's Unfortunate Child' 

the present instance, if not actually prejudiced against 
their client, they certainly took no interest whatever 
in him. Aware that he was utterly incapable of pay- 
ing them for their services, they grudged the time they 
were obliged to devote to him. Their defence con- 
sisted in advising him to acknowledge his guilt and 
throw himself on the mercy of his judges. 

Nor were the witnesses he was likewise permitted 
to summon in his defence to be depended on. At 
Inquisition trials all witnesses, fearing lest they should 
themselves be transformed into prisoners, turned 
accusers. Before the terrible judges of the Holy 
Office, whose court resembled a torture-chamber 
rather than a court of justice, even his wife testified 
against him.^ But though surrounded with indiffer- 
ence, contempt or hate, and threatened with death, 
Cagliostro did not abandon hope. His spirit was not 
yet wholly broken. The terror in which he had lived 
so long gave place to rage. Caught in the gin of the 
Inquisition he defended himself with the fury born of 
despair, and something of his old cunning. 

According to the Inquisition-biographer, when he 
was examined for the first time four months after his 
arrest " he burst into invectives against the Court of 
France to which he attributed all the misfortunes he 
had experienced since the Bastille." He accused the 
witnesses of being his enemies, and on being told that 
his wife had ''confessed " he denounced her as a trait- 
ress. But the next moment, as if realizing what she 
must have been made to suffer, *'he burst into tears, 
testified the liveliest tenderness for her, and implored 

1 The Roman correspondent of the Moniteur states that at each 
examination of CagUostro and his wife, the rack was displayed. 



the favour of having her as a companion in his 

" One may well imagine," reports the Inquisition- 
biographer, ** that this request was not granted." 
One may indeed ! According to the Moniteur he also 
asked to be bled, placed in a larger cell, allowed fresh 
linen, ^ a fire and a blanket. The first and the last 
alone were granted him, for the Inquisition had no 
desire to have him die before they had finished trying 
him. As, however, his judges professed to be deeply 
concerned for the health of his soul, when to the above 
request, he added one for ''some good book," no 
objection was made to satisfy him. He was, therefore, 
given three folio volumes on '* the defence of the 
Roman Pontificate and the Catholic Church." ^ 

Cagliostro took the cynical hint, and after read- 
ing the book manifested the deepest contrition, 
admitted that Freemasonry was a veritable crime, and 
the Egyptian Rite contrary to the Catholic religion. 
"No one, however," says the Inquisition-biographer, 
" believed him, and if he flattered himself on recovering 
his liberty by this means he was mistaken." Per- 
ceiving that this act of repentance, far from being of 
any avail, only served to furnish his enemies with fresh 
weapons, he declared that "• everything he had done 
in his life had been done with the consent of the 
Almighty, and that he had always been faithful to the 
Pope and the Church." 

Unhappily for him, however, he had to deal with 

1 In the Bastille he also asked for fresh linen, which was given 
him. If he dressed like a mountebank, he was at least always 
scrupulously clean. 

2 Difesa del Fontificato romano e della Chiesa catholica, by P. N. M. 
Pallavicino, Rome 1686. 


{From a very rare French /irint) 

[To /ace page 14 

'Nature's Unfortunate Child' 

men of a very different type to those who composed the 
Parliament of Paris. Nothing he could say would 
satisfy them. *' I will confess whatever you wish me 
to," he said. Told that the Inquisition only desired 
the '' truth," he declared that all he had said was true. 
He demanded to be brought before the Pope himself. 
" If his Holiness would but hear me," he said, ** I 
prophesy I should be set at liberty this very night ! " 

And who shall gainsay him ? With Cardinals and 
Prince-Bishops steeped in alchemy and the occult, 
perhaps even the Pope might have been tempted to 
exploit the extraordinary knowledge and faculties of 
his famous, mysterious prisoner. It would not have 
been the first time that the philosopher's stone and the 
elixir of life had been sought by a Papal sovereign. 
At any rate Cagliostro's request to be brought before 
Pius VI was not granted. The judges of the Inquisition 
were taking no risks calculated to cheat them of their 


But to give all the details of this trial as related by 
the Inquisition-biographer, who was evidently himself 
one of the judges, would be tedious. Suffice it to 
say, Cagliostro ** confessed," retracted, and ** con- 
fessed " again, " drowning the truth In a flood of words." 
One day he would acknowledge that Egyptian Masonry 
was a huge system of imposture which had as its object 
the destruction of throne and altar. The next he 
declared that it was a means of spreading the Catholic 
religion, and as such had been recognized and en- 
couraged by Cardinal de Rohan, the head of the Church 
in France. 

As regards his own religious convictions, which, by 
catechizing him on the cardinal virtues and the differ- 



encc between venial and mortal sins, the Inquisition- 
biographer asserts to be the chief object of the trial, 
they were those of the enlightened men of his cen- 
tury. " Questioned," he declared he believed all 
religions to be equal, and that "providing one believed 
in the existence of a Creator and the immortality of 
the soul, it mattered not whether one was Catholic, 
Lutheran, Calvinist, or Jew." As to his political 
opinions, he confessed to a '* hatred of tyranny, especi- 
ally of all forms of religious intolerance." 

At length, on March 21, 1791, the Inquisition 
judges brought their gloomy farce to an end. As an 
instance of the hatred of the Papal government for 
secret societies and especially for Freemasonry, Cagli- 
ostro's sentence is worth quoting in full — 

''Giuseppe Balsamo, attainted and convicted of 
many crimes, and of having incurred the censures and 
penalties pronounced against heretics, dogmatics, 
heresiarchs, and propagators of magic and superstition, 
has been found guilty and condemned to the said cen- 
sures and penalties as decreed by the Apostolic laws 
of Clement XII and Benedict XIV, against all persons 
who in any manner whatever favour or form societies 
and conventicles of Freemasonry, as well as by the 
edict of the Council of State against all persons con- 
victed of this crime in Rome or in any other place in 
the dominions of the Pope. 

" Notwithstanding, by special grace and favour, the 
sentence of death by which this crime is expiated is 
hereby commuted into perpetual imprisonment in a 
fortress, where the culprit is to be strictly guarded 
without any hope of pardon whatever. Furthermore, 
after he shall have abjured his offences as a heretic in 


' Nature's Unfortunate Child ' 

the place of his imprisonment he shall receive absolu- 
tion, and certain salutary penances will then be 
prescribed for him to which he is hereby ordered to 

'* Likewise, the manuscript book which has for its 
title Egyptian Masonry is solemnly condemned as 
containing rites, propositions, doctrines, and a system 
which being superstitious, impious, heretical, and 
altogether blasphemous, open a road to sedition and 
the destruction of the Christian religion. This book, 
therefore, shall be burnt by the executioner, together 
with all the other documents relating to this sect. 

** By a new Apostolic law we shall confirm and 
renew not only the laws of the preceding pontiffs 
which prohibit the societies and conventicles of Free- 
masonry, making particular mention of the Egyptian 
sect and of another vulgarly known as the Illumines, 
and we shall decree that the most grievous corporal 
punishments reserved for heretics shall be inflicted on 
all who shall associate, hold communion with, or 
protect these societies." 

Throughout Europe, which was everywhere im- 
pregnated with the doctrines of the Revolution, such 
a sentence for such a crime at such a time created a 
revulsion of feeling in Cagliostro's favour. His fate, 
however, evoked less sympathy for him than 
indignation against Rome. An article in the Feuille 
Villageoise best expresses the general opinion. 

'' The Pope," says the writer, '' ought to have 
abandoned Cagliostro to the effects of his bad 
reputation. Instead he has had him shut up and 
tried by charlatans far more dangerous to society 
than himself. His sentence is cruel and ridiculous. 



If all who make dupes of the crowd were punished 
in this fashion, precedence on the scaffold should 
certainly be granted to the Roman Inquisitors." 

That the trial of Cagliostro was really intended 
by the Papal government as a proof of its deter- 
mination to show no quarter in its war against 
the Freemasons may be gathered from the Inquisition- 
biographer's Vie de Joseph Balsamo, which is less a 
life of Balsamo or Cagliostro, as it purports to be, than 
a furious attack on Freemasonry, which is depicted in 
the blackest and most odious colours. Its publication 
exasperated the secret societies in Lombardy and they 
were emboldened by the progress of the Revolution 
to publish a reply. ** This pamphlet," says the 
Moniteur, ** appeared under the auspices of the Swiss 
government and produced such a sensation throughout 
Italy, and particularly in Rome, that the Conclave, 
terrified at the revolutionary fury it had awakened, 
instructed its agents to buy up every copy they could 

The Conclave would have been better advised to 
suppress the work of the Inquisition-biographer. The 
account it contains of Cagliostro's trial completely 
justifies the popular belief in the bigotry, cruelty, 
tyranny, and total lack of the Christian spirit that 
characterized the proceedings of the Holy Inqui- 


For some time after his trial the public continued 
to manifest great interest in Cagliostro. The recol- 
lection of his extraordinary career gave to his sentence 


' Nature's Unfortunate Child ' 

a dramatic character, which made a deep impression 
on the imagination. Speculation was rife as to his 
fate, which the Papal government foolishly saw fit 
to shroud in mystery that only served to keep his 
memory alive. 

All sorts of rumours were current about him. One 
day it would be said that he had attempted to commit 
suicide ; the next that he was chained to his cell a 
raving maniac. Again it was rumoured that he had 
predicted the fall of the Papacy and was impatiently 
awaiting the Roman populace to march on St. Angelo 
and deliver him. The Moniteurs correspondent relates 
that in a terrific storm '' in which Rome was stricken 
with a great fear as if the end of the world was at 
hand, Cagliostro mistook the thunder for the cannon of 
the insurgents and was heard shouting in his dungeon. 
Me void ! a moi ! me void I " 

Knowing, as he did from his Masonic connection, 
how widespread was the revolutionary movement, and 
what hopes were raised in Italy by the stirring march 
of events in France, it is not unlikely that he may 
have counted on some popular rising to set him free. 
That he despaired of such a deliverance, however, 
and contemplated recovering his liberty by his own 
efforts seems much more probable. 

According to Prince Bernard of Saxe- Weimar who 
guaranteed the accuracy of the story, Cagliostro did, 
indeed, make a bold attempt to escape from St. Angelo. 
"Manifesting deep contrition," says the Prince, ''he 
demanded penance for his sins and a confessor. A 
Capucin was sent him. After his confession, Cagliostro 
entreated the priest to give him the * discipline ' with 
the cord he wore as a belt, to which the latter willingly 



consented. But scarcely had he received the first blow 
when he seized the cord, flung himself on the Capucin, 
and did his best to strangle him. His intention was 
to escape in the priest's cloak, and had he been in his 
vigour and his opponent a weak man he might have 
succeeded. But Cagliostro was lean and wasted from 
long imprisonment and the Capucin was strong and 
muscular. In the struggle with his penitent he had 
time to call for help." 

What followed on the arrival of the jailers is not 
known, but it is not likely that the prisoner was 
handled with gloves. 

As a sequel to that frantic struggle for life and 
liberty, Cagliostro was secretly sent '' in the middle of 
the night " to the Castle of San Leo, near Montefeltro. 
The situation of this stronghold is one of the most 
singular in Europe. The enormous rock, whose summit 
it crowns, rising on three sides precipitously from an 
almost desert plain, is like a monument commemorative 
of some primeval convulsion of nature. In early times 
it had been the site of a temple of Jupiter, the ruins 
of which after its destruction by the barbarians became 
the abode of a Christian hermit, whose ascetic virtues 
were canonized, and who bequeathed his name to it. 
In the Middle Ages the holy ruins gave place to an 
almost impregnable fortress, which at a still later 
period was converted into a Papal prison, compared to 
which the Bastille was a paradise.^ 

In the eighteenth century the condition of the 
surroundings rendered it well-nigh inaccessible. The 
roads leading to San Leo were only practicable for 
horses in fine weather ; in winter it was only approached 
on foot. To accentuate still further this isolation, the 
* San Leo is now a well-conducted Italian state prison. 

'Nature's Unfortunate Child' 

Papal government had taken care that those convicted 
of sedition or heretical doctrines, should find there an 
everlasting seclusion. An official, commissioned by 
Napoleon to visit and examine the Italian prisons, 
gives an account of the cells, which were partly in the 
old casde of San Leo itself and partly excavated out 
of the rock on which it stands. 

''The galleries," he reports, ''which have been cut 
out of the solid rock, were divided into cells, and old 
dried-up cisterns had been converted into dungeons 
for the worst criminals, and further surrounded by 
high walls, so that the only possible egress, if escape 
was attempted, would be by a staircase cut in the rock 
and guarded night and day by sentinels. 

"It was in one of these cisterns that the celebrated 
Cagliostro was interred in 179 1. In recommending 
the Pope to commute the sentence of death, which the 
Inquisition had passed upon him, into perpetual 
imprisonment, the Holy Tribunal took care that the 
commutation should be equivalent to the death penalty. 
His only communication with mankind was when his 
jailers raised the trap to let food down to him. Here 
he languished for three years without air, movement, 
or intercourse with his fellow-creatures. During the 
last months of his life his condition excited the pity 
of the governor, who had him removed from this 
dungeon to a cell on the level with the ground, where 
the curious, who obtain permission to visit the prison, 
may read on the walls various inscriptions and 
sentences traced there by the unhappy alchemist. 
The last bears the date of the 6th of March, i795-" ^ 

1 "These facts," says Schlosser in his History of the Eighteerith 
Ce?itury, ''were unknown to Goethe." The same statement may 
also be applied to Carlyle. 


This is the last definite trace of Cagliostro. 

On the 6th October, 1795, the Moniteur states 
** it is reported in Rome that the famous Cagli- 
ostro is dead." But when he died, or how, is abso- 
lutely unknown. "That his end was tragic," says 
d'Alm^ras, ** one can well suppose, and his jailers, to 
make sure that he should not escape, may have put 
him out of his misery." The Moniteur speaks of the 
probability of such an end as being a topic of conversa- 
tion in Rome. In any case, it seems impossible to 
believe that he could long have survived so terrible a 
doom, which, whatever his offence, was utterly dis- 
graceful to the government that pronounced it. 

This mysterious end, so in keeping with Cagli- 
ostro's mysterious origin and personality, appeals to 
the imagination. Nothing excites curiosity like a 
mystery. Since his death there have been as many 
attempts to lift the veil in which his end is shrouded 
as were made in his lifetime to discover the secret 
of his birth. Of these specimens of sheer futility, 
Madame Blavatsky's is the most interesting, the most 
unlikely, and the most popular among the believers in 
the supernatural who have allowed their imaginations 
to run riot on Cagliostro generally. 

According to the equally extraordinary High 
Priestess of the Theosophists, Cagliostro escaped from 
San Leo, and long after his supposed death in 1795 
was met by various people in Russia, even residing 
for some time in the house of Madame Blavatsky's 
father, where **in the midst of winter he produced by 
magical power a plate full of fresh strawberries for a 
sick person who was craving it." 

Had Cagliostro survived his terrible sufferings in 


' Nature's Unfortunate Child ' 

San Leo till 1797, when the French invaded the 
Papal States, he certainly would have been set at 
liberty. San Leo, to which the Pope's troops had 
retired, was taken by the famous Polish legion under 
General Dombrowski. The first thing the officers did 
on entering the fortress was to inquire anxiously if 
Cagliostro, whom they regarded as a martyr in the 
cause of freedom, was living. 

"They thought to rescue him," says Figuier, "and 
perhaps even to give him an ovation similar to that 
which he had received in Paris after his acquittal by 
the Parliament. But they arrived too late. Cagliostro, 
they were told, had just died." 

According to another version, they demanded to 
be shown his grave, and having opened it, filled the 
skull with wine, which they drank to the honour of 
the Revolution ! 

The fate of the inoffensive and colourless Countess 
Cagliostro was quite as mysterious, though less cruel, 
perhaps, than her husband's. The Inquisition sentenced 
her, too, to imprisonment for life. She was confined 
in the convent of St. Appolonia, a penitentiary for 
women in Rome, where it was rumoured she had died 
in 1794. 



Agliata, Marquis, 35, 36 

Agrippa, Cornelius, 80 

Alba, Duke of, 13, 16 

Albertus Magnus, 80 

d'Alembert, 193 

Almeras, Henri d', 5, 146, 170, 201 

note, 233, 306 
Althotas, 32, 33, 236-240 
Aquino, Chevalier d', 184, 240, 241 
Aubert & Co., J. F., 22 
Aylett, 68-72, 272 

Bachaumont, 262 

Bacon, Roger, 79 

Badioli, 64, 66, 67 

Bailly, 97 

Balsamo, Giuseppe, 7, 10-47, 68, 266, 

270, 271, 300 

, Joseph. See Giuseppe Balsamo 

, Lorenza, 13, 19, 34-47 

, Maria, 22 

, Pietro, 21, 22 

Barthelemy, 256, 259 

Beaumarchais, 263 

Beauvais, Vincent de, 78 

Becherand, Abbe, 85 

Benamore, Dr. Moses, 41, 68, 70, 71 

Benedict XIV, 300 

Bergeret de Frouville, 256 

Besenval, Baron de, 190, 271 

Beugnot, Count, 202, 203, 210, 211 

Blanc, Louis, 98, 208 

Blavatsky, Madame, 76, 306, 307 

Blevary, Madame, 49, 50, 52, 53 

Blondel, 235 

Bode, 141, 142 

Bohmer, 220, 221, 232, 233, 244 

, Madame, 150, 151, 152 

Boileau, Pierre, ill 

Borri, 169, 295 

Boulainvilliers, Marquise de, 215 

Braconieri, Antonio, ii, 12, 13, 15, 16, 

17, 22 

, Felice. See Maria Balsamo 

, Giuseppe, 22 

, Matteo, 22 

Breteuil, Baron de, 225, 226, 2^4 note^ 

25s. 256, 257, 259 
Bretteville, Baron de, 33 
Brienne, Comtesse de, 197 
Brissot, 256 tiole, 260 note, 264, 265, 

Broad, 60, 62, 65, 72 
Brugniere, Inspector, 228, 229, 230, 235 

Cagliostro, Count — 

prejudice against, 2 ; Carlyle's portrait 
of, 3-5 ; the Balsamo legend, 1 1-18 ; 
troubles in London, 49-73 ; becomes 
a Freemason, iii ; in Leipsic, 117; 
character of Egyptian Masonry, 
1 19-125 ; reception in Courland, 126 ; 
magic seances in Courland, 129- 
140 ; Countess von der Recke's 
opinion of, 141, 142 ; in St. Peters- 
burg, 143-147 ; visits Warsaw, 148- 
154; joins the Illumines, 156; 
arrival in Strasburg, 157 : his bene- 
volence, 163 ; cur^s Prince de 
Soubise, 164-166 ; nature of his 
cures, 167-169 ; visited by Lavater, 
170; Mme. d'Oberkirch's opinion of, 
175 ; admiration of Cardinal de 
Rohan, 176-179 ; Sacchi's libel, 
183 ; visits Naples, 184 ; at Bordeaux, 
187 ; success in Lyons, 189 ; arrives 
in Paris, 190 ; infatuation of 
Parisians, 192-194 ; mystery of his 
origin and wealth, 195-197 ; appear- 
ance, 201-203 ; character of his 
seances, 209, 210; success of 
Egyptian Masonry, 211-213 ; im- 
plicated in the Diamond Necklace 
Affair, 224 ; arrest, 228 ; in the 
Bastille, 230 ; accused by Countess 
de Lamotte, 233 ; his story of his 
life, 236-242 ; refutes Countess de 
Lamotte, 244-246; acquittal, 248; 
receives a public ovation, 249 ; 
banished, 250 ; returns to London, 
251 ; Letter to the French people, 254 ; 
hostility of French Court, 257 ; de- 



nounced by Morande, 266 ; defends 
himself, 267-269 ; attempts to kidnap 
him, 272, 273 ; ridiculed by Free- 
masons, 277 ; leaves England, 279 ; 
friendship of de Loutherbourg, 280- 
282 ; seeks asylum in Switzerland, 
283 ; at Rovoredo, 285 ; expelled 
from Trent, 287 ; arrival in Rome, 
288 ; his poverty, 290 ; arrested by 
Papal police, 293 ; before the In- 
quisition, 299 ; his sentence, 300 ; 
attempt to escape, 303 ; at San Leo ; 
304> 305 ; mysterious end, 306 

Cagliostro, Countess, 13, 14, 19, 49, 
50, 54, 56, 57, 58. 59,111,112, 115, 
120, 151, 177, 181, 185, 204, 205, 
224, 230, 231, 232, 233, 241, 280, 
282, 285, 288, 297, 307 

, Giuseppe, 13, 15, 22 

Campan, Madame, 222 

Campardon, Emile, 12 

Capitummino, Giovanni, 22 

Carbonnieres, Raymond de, 189 

Carlyle, 3, 4, 5, 6, 24, 201, 203, 224, 
305 note 

Cartegirone, Benfratelli of, 23, 25, 30 

Casanova, 37, 38, 39 

Castropignani, Duke of, 266 

Catherine, Empress, 143, 147, 148 

Chaix d'Est-Ange, 225, 226 

Charles XII, 90 

Chateaugiron, Marquis de, 113 note 

Chesnon, 228, 230, 251 

Choiseul, Due de, 100, 193 

Clement V, 108, 113 note 

, XII, 109, 300 

, XIV, 241 

Condorcet, 99 

Convulsionnaires, The, 85, 86 

Courier de t Europe, lo, ii, 17, 18, 20, 
39, 40, 46, 47, 53, 54, 63, 71, III, 
113, 184 note^ 196 note^ 234, 264, 
272, 273, 274, 277, 279, 282 

, Editor of. See Theveneau de 


Courland, Duchess of, 127, 140 

, Duke of, 127 

Crequy, Marquis de, 202, 210 

Crisp, 68, 69, 70, 72 

Dee, Dr., 80, 81 

Diamond Necklace Affair, 119, 142, 

Diderot, 193 

Dombrowski, General, 307 
Du Barry, Madame, 262, 263 
Duplessis de la Radotte, 42 

Egyptian Masonry, 115, 11 7- 126, 131, 
132, 139, 142, 143, 144, 149. 156, 
160, 185, 188, 189, 197 note, 207, 
211, 212, 213, 276, 277, 292, 298, 
299, 301 

d'Epreminil, 232 

Erasmus, 80 

Esperance Lodge, 67, in, 113, 114 

Feliciani, Lorenza. See Lorenza 

, Seraphina. See Countess 

Feuille Villageoise, 301 
Figuier, 85, 123, 166, 194, 210, 212 
Fontenelle, 93 

Frederick the Great, 97, 104, 108 
Freemasons, The, 105, 107, 108, 109, 

116, 117, 121, 185, 296 
Fry, Miss, 53-68, 71, 72 
Funck-Brentano, 201 note, 248 note 

Ganganelli. See Clement XIV 

Gassner, 86, 103, 166 

Gazette de Florence, 12 

Gazette de Leyde, 1 1 

Gebir, 78, 79 

Genlis, Madame de, 172, 206 

Georgel, Abbe, 178, 181, 202, 208 

Gergy, Madame de, 199, 200 

Gillray, 278 

Gleichen, Baron de, 123, 159, 163, 

164, 180, 198, 199, 205 
Goertz, Baron von, 145 
Goethe, 43, 45, 46, 305 note 
Goncourt, 225 
Gordon, Lord George, 256, 257, 258, 

Gotha, Duke of, no 
Gracei, 266 
Graham, Dr., 86 
Grand Cophta, 

Grimm, Baron, 190, 197, 200 

The. See Count 

Eddy, Mrs., 76, 166, 281 

Hales, Sir Edward, 41 
Hardivilliers, in, 112 
du Hausset, Madame, 198 
Hermes Trismegistus, 76 
Hervier, Pere, 186, 187, 188 
Houdon, 194 
Howarth, 65, 66 
Howen, Herr von, 129 
Hundt, Baron von, 113 

Illumines, The, 104, 105, 106, no, 141, 
155, 156, 160, 197 note, 289, 301 

Inquisition, The, 20, 107, 289, 293, 
294, 295 



Inquisition-biographer, The, 19, 20, 23, 
24, 25, 32, 33, 41, 44, 46, 47, 114, 
115, 117, 118, 184, 203, 234, 254, 
284, 289, 292, 293, 294, 298, 299 

James, 71, 72 

Jansenists, The, 84, 85 

Jesuits, The, 85, 103, 107, 109, 196, 

Joseph II, 104, 286, 287 

Kant, 94 

Kepler, 80 

Knigge, Baron von, 105, 106, 109, 156, 

Knights Templars, The Order of, 108, 

113 note 
Kolmer, 236 note 

Laborde, 153, 154, 163, 202 
Lamotte, Count de, 216, 224, 256 note, 

, Countess de, 8, 9, 36, 47, 

151, 204, 205, 214, 215, 218-228, 

233. 234, 235, 242, 244-248, 254, 

256 note 
Laroca, 44 

Lasalle, Marquis de, 163, 183 
Lascaris, 161 
de Launay, 232, 251 
Lavater, 86, 140, 170, 171, 203 
Lavoisier, 88, 97 
Leguay, Mile., 219, 224, 235 
Leibnitz, 96 
Len6tre, 252 

Lette?- to the English People ^ 267, 272 
Letter to the French People, 254, 255 
Levis, Due de, 220 
Lodge of Antiquity, The, 277 
Lodge of Vrais Amis, 289, 290, 293 
Louis XIV, 96 

XV, 198, 199, 262, 263 

XVI, 19s, 215, 217, 223, 224, 

226, 258, 259 
Loutherbourg, Mrs. de, 280, 281, 282 

, Philip James, 280, 281, 282 

Luchet, Marquis de, 120, 123, 144, 

145, 146, 158, 194, 206 
Luxembourg, Prince de, 191 

Mansfield, Lord, 64, 65, 68 

Manuel, 172 

Marano, 30, 31, 33, 44, 45, 46, 158 

Maria Theresa, Empress, 162, 172, 217 
Marie Antoinette, Queen, 8, 10, 15, 

195, 216, 228, 233, 249, 250, 252, 

254, 270 
Marigny, Marquise de, 173 

-, Vincenza, 22 
Martin, Henri, 98 
Martini, 78 
Mash, 277 

Maurigi, Manjuis, 26 
Medem, Count von, 126, 127, 129, 130 

131, 134, 135, 136, 137, 140 

> Marshal von, 126, 127, 129 

,130, 134, 135, 136, 137, 147 

Memers, 159, 195, 203 

Mesmer, 75, 76, 88, 102, 166, 186, 189, 

Michelet, 203 
Millinens, Baron de, 174 
Mirabeau, 55, 124, 198, 227, 249 
Moczinski, Count, 148, 150, 151, 152 
Molay, Jacques, 108, 113 note 
Mojiiteur, The, 290 note, 295, 297 note, 

298, 302, 303, 306 
Montbruel, Chevalier de, 211 
Montesquieu, 193 
Mother Lodge of the Helvetic State*, 

Motus, 163, 202, 203 
Mouncey, Dr., 147 

Napoleon, 305 
Neubourg, Marie de, 198 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 88 
Nicastro, Ottavio, 35 
Nordberg, M. de, 198 
Normandez, M. de, 146 

Oberkirch, Baroness d', 4, 162, 163, 
170, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 178, 
. 181 note, 202, 247 
Oisemont, Chevalier d', 205 
Oliva, Baroness d'. See Mile. Leguay 
O'Reilly, 67, 68, 69, 72, 273, 275 
Orsini, Cardinal, 13, 16, 33, 241 
Orvilliers, Marquise d', 196 

Paracelsus, 79, 81, 169 
Paris, Deacon, 84, 85 
Pasqualis, Martinez, 100, 186 
Pellegrini, Marchesa. See Lorenza Bal- 

, Marchese. See Giuseppe Bal- 

Pergolezzi, 40, 51, 272, 273 note 
Philaletes, The, 212, 213 
Philip the Fair, King, 108, 113 note 
Pinto, Grand Master, 236 note, 239, 

240, 242 
Pius VI, 299 

Planta, Baron de, 181 note 
Poland, King of. See Stanislas Augustus 
Polish Legion, The, 307 



Polverit, Mattre, 204, 232 
Pompadour, Madame de, 19S, 199, 215 
Poninskf, Prince, 148, 149, 151 
Potemkin, Prince, 147 
Priddle, 64, 70, 275 
Prie, Marquis de, 42 
Puys^gur, Marquis de, 76 

Quere, 159 

Ramon, 191 

Recke, Count von der, 127 

, Countess Elisa von der, 4, 127- 

147, 202 
R6teaux de Vilette, 224 
Reynolds, 60, 61, 62, 70, 72 
Ricciarelli, Count, 11 1 
Rivarol, 225 
Roberson, 176, 177 
Rogerson, Dr., 147 
Rohan, Cardinal de, 8, 163, 164, 165, 

171-179, 181, 182, 184, 189, 196, 199, 

205, 215-227, 233, 244,247, 248, 249, 

250, 254 note^ 299 
Rosencreutz, Christian, 81 
Rosicrucians, The, 81, 82, 94, 95, 109, 

Rousseau, 97 

Sacchi, 47, 182, 183, 275, 276 
Sagesse Triomphante Lodge, The, 189 
Saint Angelo, Castle of, 32, 293, 296, 

Saint-Germain, Count de, 87,198, 199, 

200, 287 
Saint James of Compostella, 37, 39 
Saint-Martin, Louis Claude de, 99, loi, 

102, 109, 186 
Saint-Medard, Cemetery of, 84, 85 
Saint-Remy, Jeanne de. See Countess 

de Lamotte 
Sancotar, 197 

San Leo, Prison of, 304, 305, 306, 307 
San Rocco, Seminary of, 23 
Santa Cruce, Prince of, 146 
Sarazin, 156, 163, 197, 283, 284 
Saunders, 61, 62, 63, 64, 68 

Savalette, de Langes, 212 

Saverne, Palace of, 173, 174, 175, 181, 

Saxe, Marshal, 118 
Saxe- Weimar, Prince Bernard of, 300 

Schropfer, 86, 87, 109, 117 note 
Scieffort, 117 
Scott, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61, 62, 


" Lady." See Miss Fry 

Serres de Latour, 264, 265 
Shannon, 64 

Soubise, Prince de, 164, 165, 170 
Stanilas Augustus, 151, 153, 154 
Strict Observance, Order of, 113, 114, 


Surrey, Lord, 80 
Swedberg. See Swedenborg 
Swedenborg, Emmanuel, 89, 90, 91, 92, 

93, 94, 124 and note 
Swinton, 264, 265, 274, 275, 276 

Theveneau de Morande, 261-282 

Thilorier, 235, 267, 273 

Thiroux de Crosne, 232 

Tiscio, Don. See Giuseppe Balsamo 

Trent, Prince- Bishop of, 286, 287 

Ulrica, Queen, 90, 93 

Vaillant, 85 

Van Helmont, 79 

Vauvenargues, 96 

Vergennes, Comte de, 188, 264, 265 

Villafranca, Prince of, 13 

Villeneuve, Arnauld de, 167 

de Vismes, 279 note 

Vitellini, 50, 51, 52, 57, 66 

Voisenon, Abbe de, 193 

Voltaire, 96, 193, 262 

Walpole, Plorace, 198, 281 
Weishaupt, Adam, 103, 104, 105, 106 
109, 110, 141, 287 

York, Cardinal, 33, 241 

Richmrd Clay &* SffHs, Limited, London and Bungay.